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Conservation benefit: Increased protection of 25,089-acre permanent MPA

Community benefit: Ranger station for surveillance and enforcement of marine area

Date Approved: 06.2018

Ocean

This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

Beautiful, uninhabited Kuop Atoll—on maps, just a speck in the western Pacific—is one of the region’s richest marine sites. Some of the coral species found there exist only in Chuuk. Both green and hawksbill turtles nest on most of the islands of Kuop. Mantas and many shark species, including the blacktip, whitetip, gray reef, silvertip, and nurse, are common there.

Legally, the atoll is a marine protected area. In reality, its large size and remote location make surveillance and enforcement extremely difficult. The Kuop MPA is more than 10 miles from the municipality that has authority over it. And because of its abundant fish, the MPA attracts poachers, including some foreign fishing vessels.

This project will strengthen enforcement by funding construction of a ranger station at the atoll. The facility will house trained community, municipal, and state conservation officers. Having a place to stay will significantly reduce the travel costs of enforcement and ensure that conservation officers are always at the MPA. The rangers’ increased presence will have a deterrent effect; the rangers also have police powers and can make arrests and issue citations.

The area has a strong history and practice of local control of marine resources. Traditionally, the local people can also temporarily close the fishery if they decide the fish population is declining. The penalty for violations is confiscation of the poacher’s boat, engine, gear, and fish—so poachers know that fishing illegally means taking a potentially ruinous risk.

Local authorities, who are vitally interested in enforcing use restrictions for the long-term health of the fisheries, requested the ranger station. Our nonprofit partner for the project is the Micronesia Conservation Trust.

Project Updates

June 2020

Construction of the station is about half finished.

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December 2019

Our NGO partner has bought materials and cleared the building site. The Chuuk Department of Marine Resources (DMR) helped transport the building materials to the island by boat. Community members have set up the water tank and are collecting water from the roof of the storage area to provide water for workers and for laying concrete, which is the next step of the project. The DMR has also provided two conservation officers, who will help build the guardhouse. They are also working to identify reef areas that are suitable for sea cucumber and clam spawning and are on the lookout for a crown-of-thorns starfish outbreak.

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May 2019

Municipal government officers, community conservation officers, and Kuop Atoll resource owners recently attended a two-week training on MPA compliance and enforcement. The training also let stakeholders learn more about the ranger station and how it will benefit everyone. After the March elections in Chuuk, a second meeting was held to make sure political differences didn’t hinder progress. Our NGO partner has finished the design for the station and is finalizing an agreement with a contractor; once that is done, they will buy materials and move them to the site.

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December 2018

After some delays, this project is moving forward. Seacology has transferred the first installment of the grant to the project’s fiscal administrator.

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