Jaluit Atoll Marine Conservation – Marshall Isllands

Location

The Republic of Marshall Islands is composed of 29 atolls and five low-lying islands in the North Central Pacific Ocean. Twenty-two of the atolls and four of the islands are inhabited. The atolls are scattered in an archipelago consisting of two roughly parallel islands chains- the Western Ralik (sunset) and Eastern Ratak (sunrise) chains. The atolls extended about 1130 km from North to South. Jaluit Atoll comprises 91 islets, 11.34 sq. km of land area, fringing 689.74 sq. km of lagoon. It is located on the southern end of the eastern Ralik chain, 130 miles south west of Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands.

Management Authority

Republic of Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Agency, and the Conservation Area Coordinating Committee.

Demographics statistics

Jaluit Atoll has a resident population of about 2,500 people, primarily inhabiting 6 of the atoll’s 91 islets. Jabor Islet is the most populated islet with 800 people. Contact with the outside world is limited to voice communication using VHF radios, and the postal service that comes in the twice-weekly flights of the local airline.

Objective/Purpose of the site

To protect the rare and endangered marine species and habitats and to prescribe management interventions for the sustainable use of the range of species that are of economic value to the community. To achieve this, objectives are to formulate and implement a resource management plan, to strengthen the capacity of Jaluit community to implement the resource management plan, to encourage, facilitate and support the development of viable income generating alternatives.

Ecological features and assets

The upper portion of the windward ocean slope of the atoll features a system of finger buttresses usually dominated by dense growth of a wide variety of corals and encrusting algae. The upper leeward slope of the ocean reef is traversed by deep gorges with high coral growth (Jones & Endean, 1973). Over 250 species of reef fish and marine invertebrates have been identified. Four species of mangroves are found in scattered stands within the atoll.

The lagoon of Jaluit, thanks to its four deep passes is regularly replenished with ocean planktons and nutrients, providing ideal spawning conditions for the many reef and pelagic fish species including marbled cod, skipjack, rainbow runner and others. The large size and depth of the lagoon passes allow deep-sea migratory species such as tuna to regularly visit the area. The many coral heads formations within the lagoon provide recruitment habitats for juvenile reef fishes as well as reseeding areas for most species of giant clams and the black lip pearl oysters. The area also hosts three different turtle species, land crabs, crayfishes, lobsters and seabird species.

Socioeconomic features and assets

Jaluit’s economy is based primarily on subsistence activities. The main source of income for most families is the selling of copra, pearl-shell oysters and trochus shells. More recently a small-scaled community-managed ecotourism project has been implemented under the South Pacific Biodiversity Conservation Programme.

Major threats

Present unsustainable harvesting of the marine resources such as giant clams, many finfish species, oysters and turtles.Lack of community awareness on the need to conserve their resources.Lack of legal framework and resource management plan.Lack of community capacity.

Background legislation and policy support

The Jaluit Atoll Conservation Area was established in 1999 under the Republic of Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Agency, in association with the South Pacific Biodiversity Conservation Programme (SPBCP), funded by the Global Environment Facility and executed by SPREP. Funding for SBPCP terminated in Dec 2001.

Management structure

Management is by the Republic of the Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the Conservation Area Coordinating Committee chaired by the Mayor of Jaluit, and the CA Manager supported by a Conservation Area Support Officer (CASO) who is responsible for the day-to-day running. The CA Committee plays an advisory role to the Project Manager and ensures that work plans reflect communities’ concerns and priorities and that all benefits and costs from the project are equitably distributed.

Activities

Activities to be supported under ICRAN to bring this site to demonstration status include:

  • Site management activities:
    • marine resources assessment
    • implementation of resource monitoring program
    • implementation of socio-economic monitoring program
    • public awareness raising
    • development of a Management Plan
  • Alternative income generating activities:
    • eco-tourism development project which will include construction of local guest houses, training of tour guides, mangrove forest walks, canoe tours, snorkelling tours, WWII relics restoration, trail interpretation.

Stakeholder involvement and participation

The Conservation Area Coordinating Committee consists of major stakeholders of the atoll: the fishermen’s co-operative, business and education sector and village council representatives. Further partnerships, in order to develop the ecotourism project will be developed with Marshall Island Visitor Authority, Jaluit Atoll Local Government, Air Marshall Airlines and Historic Preservation Authority.

Financing mechanism

SPBCP GEF funding terminates Dec 2001. ICRAN funding will follow through to complete the work and bring the site to demonstration site status.

Major successes and failures

The SPBCP programme has managed to develop a plan for community ecotourism project for the site but this has not yet been implemented due to lack of funds. A management plan has not yet been formulated and implemented.

Major needs : Resource Management Plan Adequate monitoring program.environmental education for local communities

Link to a target site : Tokelau Marine Conservation Area will be the “target” partner for this site.

Bibliography :

  • SPREP, 1999. Jaluit Atoll Conservation Area Project, Republic of the Marshall Islands, project preparatory document draft. 75pp.
  • SPREP, UNDP, GEF, 2001. Feasibility Assessment & Support for Community Ecotourism Development, Jaluit Atoll Conservation Area, January 2001. South Pacific Biodiversity Conservation Programme. 124 pp.
  • SPREP, UNDP, GEF, 2001. Report on the Ecotourism Development Plan for the communities of the Jaluit Atoll Conservation Area, Marshall Islands, January 2001. South Pacific Biodiversity Conservation Programme. 25 pp.
ICRAN