KOLONIA, Pohnpei - Dr. Gerry Allen from the Western Australian Museum will start the second part of a survey of Pohnpei's marine life this month. The survey began in June with a health check of its coral reefs and will end in November with an assessment of the seagrass beds.
"Although the first part of the survey gave some sobering observations on the general health of our coral reefs, it also provided some very welcoming and positive surprises," according to Mr. Willy Kostka of the Conservation Society of Pohnpei, who is leading the survey. "The survey confirmed our suspicions that the our coral reefs are under a lot of pressure from terrigenous sediment and dredging, but the team also found over 300 species of hard corals, a significant increase from the 214 previously recorded for Pohnpei."
"The team also found some very healthy and interesting near-shore coral communities, which are not normally found in those areas, and a dozen coral species that were unknown to them. We are hoping that further analysis in Australia will confirm a couple of endemics," said Mr. Kostka.
"We also hope that the second part of the survey will also reveal some good surprises. We have been encouraging involvement from different government agencies and raising awareness of the survey findings on the radio so that government agencies, non-governmental organisations and the local communities can assist us with conservation efforts for better management of our critical resources. Other FSM states and island nations in the region, who have been following the developments in Pohnpei, are already expressing their interest in carrying out the similar assessments in their own areas and we are happy to help them move forward on their plans."
From August 22, Dr. Gerry Allen from the Western Australian Museum will begin a survey of the reef fishes of Pohnpei. Dr. Allen is an internationally recognised expert on reef fishes and has written more than 20 books and 200 scientific articles. He has been diving for 35 years and spent almost 7,000 hours underwater.
"No two reefs have the same community of fishes," says Allen. "To my knowledge the reefs of Pohnpei have not been thoroughly surveyed so I'm excited about what we might find."
Dr. Allen expects to find more than 900 species of fish with at least one species that is found nowhere else. Allen will SCUBA dive to about 50 metres at as many sites as possible to count the reef fishes.
In October, Len McKenzie from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries will finish the survey when he works with a team of locals from the Conservation Society of Pohnpei to survey seagrasses. Seagrasses are vital as nurseries for prawns and fish, and help to filter mud and other run-off that flows off the island and onto coral reefs.
The survey is a cooperative project by the Pohnpei Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Department of Economic Affairs - Division of Marine Development, Conservation Society of Pohnpei, The Nature Conservancy, WildAid and Australian scientific institutions including the Western Australian Museum, the Cooperative Research Centre for the Great Barrier Reef (CRC Reef) and Queensland Dept of Primary Industries & Fisheries. The survey is funded by Packard Foundation, the United States Department of Interior - Office of Insular Affairs, UNESCO and CORAL.