Oral storytelling is the traditional means for passing down knowledge from generation to generation. As young people now attend Western style schools, often on different islands, they are no longer learning alongside their elders and hearing these stories, and this disconnect is contributing to the breakdown of traditional management. With a National Geographic Society grant we have begun a Storytelling Project, with participants in the Ulithi Youth Action Project listening to, recording, transcribing and translating some of the foundational stories of their culture, upon which their resource management framework is built.
This work has resulted in a collection of seven Ulithian stories with English translations. A new story was written that weaves together elements found within the seven Ulithian stories with contemporary lessons about the value of traditional management rules and coral reef science. These stories are presented in audio (original live recordings and english translations) and a written booklet. Both the audio and written components are include on our Storytelling Project website.
Traditional Management Practices
Outer Island communities are concerned at the loss of traditional resource management practices on their islands that have come with increasing outside influence. Traditional practices on these islands include seasonal and rotating reef closures, size, species and gear restrictions, complex sharing and distribution arrangements, and monitoring and enforcement mechanisms that together create a complete management framework. We have been documenting these practices, which often take the form of taboos and rituals, and drawing connections with scientific management methods. Understanding that these “MPAs” are a traditional method, we have found communities embracing them as one of several strategies to enhance the reefs and associated resources. Our 2017 and 2018 Outer Island Science Expeditions allowed us to document practices that have been lost on Ulithi Atoll but are still in use or memory on more remote islands.