December 2018 Update

December 2018 Update

A huge thank you to everyone who has made our work possible!

As we reflect on the successes of our collaborative work, and its exciting expansion across Yap State,  we would like to thank everyone who has contributed - whether through donations, grant-making, participating in our expeditions or youth projects, or volunteering their time behind the scenes. Your contributions are making a real difference to Outer Islanders, and to the reefs that surround them. One People One Reef is a true collaboration between outer islanders and western scientists and contributors. Hosa hachigchig!

Management plans in place across the Yap Outer Islands!

Our alliance of scientists and communities passed a major milestone this year - 8 atolls/islands across Yap State have revised and strengthened their own management plans, covering over 1,000 linear kilometers, or 66,000km2The plans include a combination of partial closures, species bans, gear bans, rotational closures and seasonal restrictions, and are rooted in traditional management practices. The success of our work on Ulithi Atoll was what prompted the other islands to get involved with the program, and we have now trained over 50 local scientists in on-site monitoring, so we can assess the impact of these management plans over the coming years.

“We need to have a common understanding around management, so that everyone agrees and supports it. Understanding the old ways, and the impacts of the new ways, can help us protect the ocean for our children, and their children.”

Chief Ike, Asor Island, Ulithi Atoll


"Fish we haven't seen for 40 years!"

Our data show an increase in fish biomass on managed reefs - including those that only began management in 2017 - and the community on Falalop, Ulithi has reported seeing fish species they have not seen in over 40 years! Another encouraging anecdote is that community fishing on these reefs recently yielded enough fish for a community event in just a couple of hours, where before the management the reef would often have to be fished for up to 8 hours to provide enough fish. Watch a video clip of one of these community managed reefs teeming with fish!

Read our Biannual Report

Fisheries and seafood consumption data informs management planning

Outer Islanders have collected a huge amount of data on their catch by compiling fisheries databases and keeping household seafood consumption calendars. Our science team has trained over 50 local scientists in collecting data on landed fish, and the Ulithi Atoll database now contains over 90,000 fish. Trends revealed by this data - in preferred fishing methods, which species are targeted, and fish size - are crucial to informing management decisions.

Additionally, to date, over 100 households across seven islands have kept a calendar tracking the source location, type (reef, open water, etc.) and quantity of seafood they consumed over the course of a month. This tool doubles as both an indirect method of fisheries monitoring and a powerful educational aid. 

Ulithi chiefs say no to commercial

sea cucumber fishery

Sea cucumbers have been a recent focus of our reef surveys. Here are our Ulithi Youth Action Project scientists after a day of conducting sea cucumber density surveys on the island of MogMog. “Cukes” are a valuable commodity in some Asian markets, and businessmen have approached the communities for access to the ones found on the reefs of Ulithi. The communities wanted more information about the animals so that they could make an informed decision. How many are there and what species? What is their importance to the reef? The answer to the latter question is that they are hugely important: they “clean” the sediment by feeding on detritus, they turn over the sediment, improving conditions for critters that live in it,  their feces can reduce seawater acidity - combating ocean acidification which is damaging to corals, and they increase biodiversity through hosting many smaller organisms in symbiotic relationships. Armed with this knowledge and data from our surveys, the chiefs have chosen not to sell their cucumbers. If you'd like to join the 2019 Youth Action Project, visit Bluecology's website!

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Storytelling Project                 

Reconnecting elders and youth

The Outer Islands have a strong oral storytelling tradition, through which elders pass valuable knowledge on to young people - including knowledge of fisheries and reefs. With young people increasingly leaving their islands to pursue a formal education, connections between elders and youth have been weakening and these stories - and the knowledge they hold - are being lost. This summer our Ulithi Youth Project met with elders from each of the four islands, and asked them to share stories that their grandparents had shared with them. With support from the National Geographic Society, these stories are being transcribed in Ulithian, translated into English, then woven together with relevant science into recorded narratives that can be shared in schools, community meetings and other gatherings, creating new opportunities for youth and elders to reconnect, and for this ancient knowledge to be shared.

Youth Project expands to Woleai Atoll... 

Another highlight of our summer was watching our Ulithi youth galvanize the Woleai community around re-invigorating their people and reefs through learning more about their current and traditional fisheries management practices. From this year's youth project leader, May Roberts: "My proudest, most heart-burtsy-wiggling moment to come from teaching the youth program was learning that the Ulithi participants had essentially run a two week youth program of their own on Woleai. They had taken what they've been learning on Ulithi, and taught Woleai local youth how to conduct surveys, collected samples, and discussed the importance and value of collecting their own fisheries data. They also came away with new connections and friendships, pride, excitement and stoke, as well as a deep appreciation for the cultural aspects that are still observed on the more traditional Woleai but that have been lost on Ulithi.

...with leadership from Ulithian youth

This is Clancy. He wants to be a lawyer that helps Micronesian island communities protect their local fisheries from international fishing boats, and says that the training he’s gotten as a participant in our program is key to understanding the science behind how overfishing can happen.

This is Ginger, a returning participant in the youth project. She’s a real smart, cool gil who is still in high school, but definitely college-bound and now wants to study biology!

Support the Youth Action Project

Community College students contributing to our genetics work

We have developed a class for undergraduate students at Cabrillo Community College and University of California Santa Cruz. This class focused on analyzing the data collected from Ulithi and the outer islands. Students worked on Ulithi fish, corals and sea cucumbers, mostly focusing on: DNA extraction, RAD sequencing, DNA barcoding, and bioinformatics. Learn more about this class here!

Our goals for 2019

In 2019 we will continue to do reef surveys and community outreacand work to scale up this approach. We are also expanding our youth projects.

In addition, we are partnering with Island Conservation to see how invasive rat and monitor lizard removal impacts the reefs and other marine and terrestrial resources. Check out this article on the benefits to coral reefs of invasive rat removal in the Chagos Archipelago.

The Youth Action Project will continue its reef monitoring, community service, and marine debris work, and will be involved in monitoring work to assess the impact of invasive species removal work on sea turtles and coconut crabs. If you'd like to join the 2019 Youth Action Project, visit Bluecology's website!

Thank you once again for your support. We continue to fundraise to support our work. We work closely with Bluecology, and they handle donations to our program. Please consider us in your year-end giving.

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Mailing address: One People One Reef / BLUECOLOGY , 336 Bon Air Center, Suite 155, Greenbrae, CA, 94904, US