A family in Chuuk in their boat.
A family in Oneisomw fishing from their canoe. © Simon Lorenz

Stories in the Pacific Islands

Oneisomw: How a Community United to Protect Their Small Island Home

Oneisomw is one of nine islands within the Faichuuk region of the Chuuk State—one of the four states that make up the Federated States of Micronesia.

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The Nature Conservancy (TNC) works directly with communities who rely on the land and water in their own backyards. In Micronesia and other Pacific Islands, the need for conservation is urgent, because people are already experiencing the impacts of climate change and development.

TNC employs the holistic “Ridge to Reef” concept, meaning what happens on land directly affects the health of seas. With the best available science and planning tools, Ridge to Reef enhances our understanding of natural resources and facilitates effective management for the benefit of people and nature.

In Oneisomw, the 1,200 residents have joined together to use Ridge to Reef planning to protect their volcanic island, its abundant coral reefs and essential fisheries. With resources on the island being privately owned, this collaboration has only been possible due to cooperation and a shared vision of caring for the health and well-being of its people, which is directly linked to the health of the environment.

Community members in Oneisomw, Chuuk.
Community members from Oneisomw, Chuuk © Simon Lorenz

In recent decades, coral reefs and fish populations have been seriously damaged due to natural disasters and unsustainable fishing practices. Reefs in Chuuk State have been hurt by natural disturbances like Typhoon Mayask and the invasive Crown-of-Thorns starfish that prey on live coral. The likelihood of such disturbances only increases with a changing climate.

TNC, with support of partners, has been working alongside the communities of Oneisomw since 2012 to help them manage their reef fisheries more sustainably, increase community resilience, adapt to the impacts of climate change and secure funding for conservation. The island has formed a Community-Based Organization (CBO) called the Oneisomw Environmental Conservation Association, and they have declared a Marine Protected Area (MPA) to rebuild fish stocks, preserve coral reefs and expand enforcement.

Quote: Enrino Paul

I would like to thank TNC for their support and dedication. It has not always been an easy process, but I am happy that our community has come together to protect our fishery and shared resources for our future.

Mayor of Oneisomw Municipality

On land, Oneisomw is responding to climate change by expanding home gardens for food security, and for water security, they have received training on watershed management, erosion control, water quality control and less polluting pig husbandry. In addition, a local organization is reaching out to youth with in-school lesson plans about marine science and the importance of MPAs.

Oneisomw is a role model for community conservation, and TNC is taking the lessons learned from this Ridge to Reef project and implementing them across Micronesia and other Pacific Islands.