June 17, 2013

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

June 6, 2013 Pohnpei, FSM -Three villages in Yap have completed the first year of a coastal fisheries management program built essentially on the success of a pilot program that was carried out and is still being implemented in Pakin, Pohnpei.

Magele Etuati Ropeti, Coastal Fisheries Management Officer with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) said that the FSM National Government specifically prioritized a management plan for Yap as a Climate Change Adaptation project. He said that there had been no funding to get started until a German international aid program stepped up and funded the project.

Fenno Brunken's position as Climate Change Advisor at SPC at the North Regional Office is funded by "GIZ" (an acronym for "Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit", which translated means, "German Corporation for International Development").

Program has been going for less than a year

In July of last year, national, regional and Non-Governmental Operators held a planning workshop in Yap to identify potential communities to establish pilot sites for a community based ecosystem approach to fisheries management; CEAFM they call it Yes, they assigned an acronym to the type of fisheries management they would undertake.

The planning workshop identified Riken and Wanyan, West Fanif, and Rumung as the pilot communities. In November the communities participated in consultations to jointly develop CEAFM management plans. The plans identified "on the ground actions" to be employed for the sustainable management of fisheries resources. "They also provide key adaptation activities to support communities under a changing environment and to assist building their resilien[ce] towards [the] impacts of climate change," a report on the project says.

While climate change impacts are not well understood, adaptation measures should start now

"Impacts from climate change have also been discussed as contributing factors to the degraded marine environment although (they are) not well understood," the May, Climate Change Adaptation newsletter of CCCPIR ("Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region") said. The newsletter which covers efforts on Climate Change Adaption in the North Pacific Region is a cooperative output from SPC and GIZ.

"It's not all about climate change," Paul Donohoe - Ecosystem-based Adaptation Officer at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Program (SPREP) told Pacific Islands journalists at a workshop in Samoa during the last week of May. "You could say that even without climate change we are driving extreme changes to the world's ecosystems through direct human impact - loss of habitat, spread of invasive species, loss of biodiversity, pollution of waterways, breakdown in ecosystem function," he said. "Climate change is an added stress on top of this."

"Catches of fish and shellfish have been declining in lagoons and inshore reefs of the Federated States of Micronesia. Reasons for this decline include overexploitation due to increasing population, the use of overly efficient and sometimes destructive fishing methods and other land based activities such as near shore infrastructure development affecting the marine habitats," the CCCPIR report says.

Ropeti said that it's almost impossible to definitively pin specific events on climate change. He said that climate change is certainly having an effect on the islands and there are things that can be done in the islands by the people who live there in order to strengthen their own resilience to the predicted effects of climate change. New coastal fisheries management plans are just one of many things that can be done.

Program is a "new" approach to coastal fisheries management

He said that in the past, methods of coastal fisheries management included regulatory devices such as catch limits, fishing methods, licensing, and other methods concerning how and when fish are caught. Those methods can still be involved but what that method by itself doesn't take into consideration is that even land based human activities can, and do affect coastal fisheries. The "new" approach looks at what is happening from "ridge to reef" and what could be changed in a community in order to ensure their own food security through behavioral modification at the community level.

As an example, clearing in the highlands of the watershed of an island, no matter how high the island might be, affects water runoff which can dump silt into the ocean which affects reefs in a myriad of ways.

Highland clearing is just one of many human land and ocean based factors that can have an adverse affect on coastal fisheries.

"It's an ecosystem wide approach," Ropeti said, "and the communities are in the driver's seat."

Management plans being finalized now

Ropeti, and Brunken met with State and National officials last week in Pohnpei to firm up the next steps for the coastal fisheries management program and to complete the management plan after input from the communities.

James Yinug of the Department of Resources and Development Marine Resources Management Division was the Yap State Government representative. Valentin Martin of the FSM Department of R&D Fisheries Management Division was the National Government representative.

Yinug said that the three communities in Yap have made great strides and now various State government departments are in the process of considering what should be done on a State wide level in order to support the management plans that the communities have developed.

FADs proven method of climate change adaptation

In February of this year, SPC supported a three-day training, in the communities of near shore Fish Aggregation Devices. During the training community members built six FADs and deployed them in areas that would be accessible to the community members.

"FADs have been used for decades," Ropeti said. "But they're usually out at sea and inaccessible to most community members." He said that the FADs that the communities deployed are out far enough to attract pelagic fish such as tuna but not so far out that they are inaccessible. Yinug said that the new FADs are one nautical mile past the reef and are available to be used by of the people of Yap.

FADs are not designed to attract reef fish but pelagic species, migratory fish that live in the top layer of the ocean. "FADs are hands-down one of the best proven tools for climate change adaptation for rural communities," Ropeti said.

FAD construction and maintenance is not the only arrow in the communities' management plans. So far they are the biggest step forward that they have made other than to develop the management plans themselves. Those management plans have not yet been published.

Plans for the future include other FSM States

Plans for the remainder of this year include training of data collection and monitoring of the deployed FADS for members of interested communities. There will also be training on FADs fishing methods to secure proper use of the devices in the future. They also intend to develop a "National coastal fisheries monitoring team" for the FSM and to extend the CEAFM approach to other FSM States.

It's one heck of a lot of progress in less than a year.