Pohnpei State R&D and partners conduct outreach in Pakin Atoll

IMG 5873.1 copyMarch 2, 2020 – On February 14th to February 15th, 2020,  Pohnpei State Department of Resources and Development (R&D) and Pohnpei State Department of Public Safety, Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) were on Pakin Atoll with partners from Sokehs Municipal Police Department, the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP), Nanwap Marine Protected Area (MPA) Community, Micronesia Challenge and Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT) to conduct community awareness on conservation of natural resources.

On day one, the Acting Director of R&D, Mr. Mark Kostka, explained to the community a recent amendment to the Pohnpei State sea turtle legislation (S.L. No. 9L-149-19), which protects nesting turtles, eggs and hatchlings but not marine areas known to be congregation sites of sea turtles. The amended legislation calls for R&D to submit a draft legislation to propose “sea turtle conservation zones from which no sea turtles or parts thereof shall be taken, injured or killed at any time.” There are different locations throughout Pohnpei State that are known to be congregation sites for turtles and Pakin is one of them. Acting Director Kostka asked the community if they are willing to list Pakin Atoll as one of the first conservation zones for sea turtles in Pohnpei and requested that they make a decision at their earliest convenience as the deadline for the list is February 28th, 2020. Upon hearing the amended legislation, the community recalled local stories of their ancestors paying respect to nesting turtles through songs and prayers. In their recollection of old stories, the residents made it apparent that the value and respect for sea turtles still thrives in them. Following the site visit, R&D received a response from the community to list the entire Pakin Atoll as a sea turtle conservation zone.

Additionally, the Protect Areas Network (PAN) Coordinator, Mr. Carlos Kusto, presented to the community about the FSM PAN Policy and the Micronesia Challenge Endowment Fund, which would be an additional funding mechanism for communities with protected areas. PAN Coordinator Kusto explained how communities would be able to access the endowment funding and reminded the locals that he is available to assist the community in ensuring that they meet the eligibility criteria as well as help with the application process for the endowment. With the establishment of the Pakin MPA, more funding sources have been able to stream into the community. The endowment will expand the funding source but CSP reiterated to the community that MPAs are not only important for that but that they are also a vital tool to restore ocean productivity and replenish fish resources for the people to use.

Following Acting Director Kostka and PAN Coordinator Kusto’s presentations, MCT introduced the Coconut for Life (C4L) Project, wherein a group from one or more communities sells coconuts to FSM Vital as an alternative source of income. This project was piloted in Pohnpei and rolled out in Chuuk in 2019. The C4L project aims to provide sustainable livelihoods to local communities and to help alleviate fishing pressure in coastal communities or communities that have MPAs. From observations, transportation will be the biggest challenge to this community joining the project.  With this and other similar outreach activities, Pohnpei State Government, CSP, MCT and the Municipality of Sokehs hope to show this and other communities that no one will be left behind in terms of making communities aware of projects and opportunities that provide for people and their livelihoods. The community provided a response to MCT at a later date that they will enroll in the C4L project.

On day two, MCT and CSP spoke on the Pakin project called, “Building Pakin Community Resiliency to Climate Change Through an Enhanced Ecosystem-based Approach to Fisheries Management,” which is being sub-granted by MCT through CSP. The team recapped the project objectives with the community and explained the budget in detail. The community requested time to discuss amongst themselves whether they need to make minor adjustments to their budget and will communicate their decision to CSP and MCT. Lieutenant Basindo Ioanis from the Division of Fish and Wildlife shared penalties of breaking the conservation laws including serving time in prison, applicable fees, and confiscating equipment. At the end of the meeting, Acting Director Kostka reminded the residents that the work they are undergoing is critical for conservation, but it is most important to remember that conservation is ultimately for the people.

Pohnpei State Government and its partners extend their gratitude to Chief of Pakin (Sounihrek Pakin), Luhk en Sakon Sokehs, Nahnsahu Ririn Sokehs and the entire community of Pakin for receiving the team with great hospitality. Special thanks to the late Eugene Kohler, an active member of Sokehs community and strong supporter of conservation efforts in Pohnpei, for participating this outreach to Pakin Atoll.

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