The islands and seas comprising the Micronesia region are some of the most beautiful in the world—remote and isolated in a way that can be hard for us to imagine here in Hong Kong. But if you think you might want to visit these picturesque places someday, now is the time to take action—multiple threats jeopardize this once-pristine corner of the world.
As busy residents of Hong Kong, we nevertheless have more in common with Micronesia’s 650,000 residents than you might think—climate change, and the increasing demands on natural resources are threatening the way of life of Micronesians, just as those realities challenge us here at home.
The Conservancy in Micronesia
The Conservancy is working across 6.7 million square kilometers of reefs, islands and ocean in Micronesia to help local communities, small businesses, and governments meet the surging challenges of rising sea levels, withering reefs, invasive species, pollution and unsustainable development—all of which threaten local populations and pose a risk to the HK$6.2 billion in annual tourism revenue the region depends on.
By helping the five nations of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas achieve their ambitious goal of protecting 30% of near-shore marine resources and 20% of terrestrial resources in Micronesia by 2020, the Conservancy is a proud supporter of the Micronesia Challenge.
This precedent-setting, region-wide initiative evolved from local, on-the-ground conservation projects across Micronesia. Today, it is a large-scale partnership between governments, nonprofit and community leaders, and multinational agencies and donors.
Spanning 6.7 million square kilometers, the Micronesia Challenge represents more than 5 percent of the Pacific Ocean and 61 percent of the world’s coral species. It includes 66 threatened species, more than 1,300 species of reef fish, 85 species of birds and 1,400 species of plants — 200 of which are found only in Micronesia.
The Challenge brings together more than 2,000 isolated islands, separated into five political jurisdictions, inhabited by nearly 500,000 people speaking 12 different languages — all working towards the same set of goals. It has set a global example of collaborative, sustainable island conservation.
The Nature Conservancy is helping the islands reach these goals. Along with a startup pledge of HK$23 million, the Conservancy is assisting with:
- Identifying the places with the most biodiversity, the biggest threats and that, if protected, will best preserve biodiversity and livelihoods.
- Establishing protected area networks.
- Training local conservation and community organizations how to best protect priority marine and coastal areas.
- Developing sound governmental policies that will protect resources for the good of all.
- Addressing two urgent threats to the region’s biodiversity: invasive species and destructive fishing practices.
- Increasing funding for conservation.
Beginning in 1992, when we helped establish the Palau Conservation Society, the Conservancy has long worked with the people and communities of Palau to ensure the continued survival of their forests, reefs, and freshwater resources that sustain the communities, plants and wildlife living there.
Overfishing, unsustainable forestry practices and increasing development—coupled with coral bleaching and climate change—pose major threats to the 400 corals, 1,300 varieties of reef fish, and vulnerable species like saltwater crocodiles, sea turtles, giant clams, and dugong found in and around Palau. Losing the rich bounty of the reefs would be devastating to Palau, which relies heavily on the reefs for sustenance, exports, and tourism.
That’s why we’ve worked closely with the government to establish the country’s protected areas network, which now includes the Ngardok Nature Reserve, protecting Micronesia’s largest freshwater lake. Plans are in the works for three more new protected areas to be included into the network in 2013.
Federated States of Micronesia
Spanning across 2.6 million square kilometers of Pacific Ocean, the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)—Pohnpei, Kosrae, Yap and Chuuk—are home to thriving coral reefs that attract tourists but also provide the backbone for the country’s economy, and nourish people in Hong Kong and all over the world who import the seafood caught in the FSM. The Nature Conservancy is committed to helping the FSM achieve its goals of preserving its natural resources, and we work closely with local communities and the government to make this ambition a reality.
Through the Compact of Free Association between the US and the Micronesian nations, the Conservancy helped secure HK$15.5 million annually in public funding for conservation. We’ve also helped the FSM design and implement a nationwide network of marine protected areas—including 11 marine protected areas in Pohnpei.