FSM President David Panuelo
The Federated States of Micronesia has set a goal to protect 30 percent of its exclusive economic zone by 2030, aiming to create the largest network of marine protected area in the Pacific islands region.
FSM President David Panuelo said the goal would cover 897,000 sq.km. of marine protected areas, which he said would be the seventh largest in the world.
"Protecting this area will help ensure that fisheries continue to flourish, ecosystems remain intact, and better buffers for climate change," Panuelo said, speaking at the 2020 Virtual Island Summit on Sept. 8.
He noted that the ocean is a major component of the nation's socio-economic affairs. "The ocean feeds us, connects us, supports us, protects us and unites us," he said.
Panuelo said the FSM government and its four states are collaborating with the Waitt Institute, Oceans 5, National Geographic Pristine Seas, Micronesia Challenge, and Micronesia Conservation Trust—Blue Prosperity Micronesia toward meeting the nation's target.
Panuelo said FSM's goal is tied the Micronesia Challenge, a regional inter-governmental initiative in the western Pacific region that would facilitate more effective conservation of marine and forest resources in Micronesia.
Launched in 2006, the initiative involves the FSM, Marshall Islands, Palau, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.
"This was a first-of-its-kind environmental protection initiative. The Micronesia Challenge had pledged to protect 30 percent of our region’s marine resources and 20 percent of its terrestrial resources by 2020," Panuelo said. "Our region has largely met this goal, which has since inspired similar regional island commitments such as the Caribbean Challenge Initiative, the Aloha+ Challenge, and the Coral Triangle Initiative."
He noted that the Pacific islands region has developed over 150 protected areas, including the standardization of marine and terrestrial monitoring protocols and region-wide databases. Panuelo added that the initiative had more than 3,000 people have been trained in management, planning, marine and socioeconomic monitoring, climate change adaptation, communications, behavioral change and enforcement.
The initiative, he added, has led to the protection more than 1,300 species of fish and more than 480 species of coral.
One protected spot in Kosrae is the Mahkontowe Conservation Area, a 15-sq.km. ethnographic and biological landscape with archaeological resources.
"It’s culturally significant because it tells the origin story of Kosrae, and how a mother whale and her daughter later became Lelu Island and Kosrae Island," Panuelo said.
He described the Mahkontowe Conservation Area as an example of a community-based historic preservation project, which involved the community’s elders.
"It’s biologically significant because it is home to the lowest lying cloud forest in the world," Panuelo said. "Whether it’s the Arno skink, the Kosrae flying fox, the Micronesian pigeon, the Montane cloud forest, the fern-sedge savanna, or mixed broadleaf forest, the Mahkontowe Conservation Area protects it. It is one of the 150 examples of protected areas developed through the Micronesia Challenge regionwide, of which about 60 are within the Federated States of Micronesia."
Complementing the bigger goals are the nation's new mandates designed to change the citizens' daily practices, such as the recently implemented ban on one-time-use of plastic shopping bag and Styrofoam containers.
" Less than a week from today, on Sept. 13, we celebrate the second annual Micronesian Clean-Up Day. All across the region, from Palau to Majuro, citizens will be working together to remove trash, like plastics and junk cars, from our islands," Panuelo said. "Over the next several months, the Honorable Yosiwo P. George, Vice President of the Federated States of Micronesia, and I will be advocating for our Congress’ support toward making renewable energy usage and production part of our petroleum corporation’s mandate."
Joining the 2020 Virtual Island Summit were Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, Guam Gov. Lourdes Leon-Guerrero and Tuvalu's former Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga.
"At the outset, for those of you unfamiliar with Micronesia: imagine 607 islands, with physical sizes ranging from much less than an acre to 334 square kilometers. Our Pacific neighbors like Samoa may think they are small, but Samoa has more than three times the amount of land than Micronesia does," Panuelo said.
"What Micronesia has in abundance, however, is ocean: our nearly three million square kilometers of ocean is about one third the total size of China’s land area. We are a Big Ocean State."