The Nature Conservancy in Micronesia
The Nature Conservancy started working in Micronesia 25 years ago in Palau, our first office outside the Western Hemisphere. Since then, we have expanded across the region, working with local partners to develop innovative science and management solutions. Today, the Micronesia Program has grown into an integrated network of successful partnerships covering more than 150 conservation sites.
Micronesia’s network of islands, seas and forests spans 2.9 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean and holds some of the world’s most vibrant ecosystems. Its incredible spectrum of coral reefs and fish don’t just attract tourists looking to sail or scuba dive. This marine biodiversity also provides nourishment for people in many parts of the world, is the backbone of Micronesia’s economy and is an integral part of the region’s cultural identity.
More than just an exotic place “out there” across the seas, Micronesia is integrally tied to the rest of the world through climate and commerce. For example, the tuna in your sandwich might have been fished in Micronesia’s waters, since the Pacific is one of the last productive tuna fisheries in the world. Recognizing the importance of reforming the fishery, the Conservancy has begun working with the Palauan government to provide a sustainable tuna management model for the region.
Over the coming years, we will all look to island nations for examples of how to adapt to climate change. These countries are already dealing with the effects of sea level rise, storm surges, water shortages and crop loss. With more than 2,000 islands, Micronesia is at the forefront of climate change and is one of the most threatened regions in the world.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?Micronesians have a close relationship with nature and a long history of conservation, because fishing and food security have been integral aspects of their culture and traditional practices. Historically and today, their lifestyles, income and social structure revolve around the land and sea. However, with the increase of Western influence and foreign development, fewer people are practicing traditional methods.
This is why leaders across the Micronesia region decided to make a stronger commitment to conservation. In 2006, five Micronesian jurisdictions launched a visionary conservation plan, the Micronesia Challenge, serving as a role model and inspiration for other countries. The leaders of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam agreed to effectively conserve at least 30 percent of the near-shore marine resources and 20 percent of the terrestrial resources across their region by 2020. The Micronesia Challenge includes more than 500,000 people, 2,000 islands, 12 languages, five Micronesian jurisdictions and one ambitious goal.
WHAT THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IS DOINGWe’re working with governments, local organizations and communities to:
- Apply the latest innovations in science and policy.
- Establish new protected areas and enhance national Protected Areas Networks.
- Develop tools and management approaches to sustain fisheries.
- Address the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise and coral bleaching.
- Establish conservation easements to protect forests and watersheds.
- Help make tourism and development more environmentally friendly.
- Devise ways to sustainably finance future conservation work.
Legendary for its astonishing marine diversity and beauty, even named one of the “Seven Underwater Wonders of the World” by divers, Palau holds far more than seems possible in the 170 square miles it covers.
The Federated States of Micronesia
Of all the Micronesia jurisdictions, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is the largest and has the most diverse ecosystems and cultures. The FSM includes four autonomous states where 17 indigenous languages are spoken. Its habitats range from the low-lying atolls of Chuuk to Pohnpei’s dwarf cloud forest — one of the wettest places on Earth.
Guam - Northern Mariana Islands - Marshall Islands
With support from The Nature Conservancy, these three Micronesian jurisdictions are making great strides toward meeting their Micronesia Challenge goals, using a “Ridges to Reefs” conservation approach to ensure their waters and lands remain healthy.