2015 CNMI Coral Reef Initiative Summer Interns’ Conservation Messages

By AIC guest bloggers, Britta Baechler, CNMI Marine Protected Areas Coordinator, Division of Fish and Wildlife and Avra Heller, CNMI Coral Reef Initiative Project Coordinator, Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality

We had a great time this summer with the 2015 Coral Reef Initiative internship participants! This summer 14 interns held various positions with CNMI Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW), CNMI Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality’s (BECQ) Division of Coastal Resources Management (DCRM), Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance (MINA), CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources (DLNR), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) learning about the various ways our government and partners work to protect CNMI’s precious natural resources.

Check out this fun video of the Coral Reef Initiative (CRI) intern cohort (and CNMI Micronesia Challenge Young Champion, Carey Demapan) during a field trip to the Managaha Marine Conservation Area! How many of these bright young CNMI stars do you know or recognize?

The video was compiled and edited by CRI intern Romana Chong. Original song written and performed by Nikkie Ayuyu.



  • Delfin Camacho – Worked with DCRM Enforcement, monitoring enforcement and compliance of permitted projects and marine sports activities.
  • Miso Sablan and Andrew Johnson – Conducted reef flat surveys looking for signs of coral disease with the CNMI Marine Monitoring Team based at BECQ.
  • Nikkie Ayuyu and Anathalia David – Conducted marine debris education outreach and research, with MINA, a key partner NGO.
  • Erick Dela Rosa and Max Garcia – Worked with the DLNR Sea Turtle team conducting nest surveys and monitoring as well as in-water live capture and tagging of sea turtles.
  • Kallie O’Conner, Jacklyn Garote, Romana Chong – Designed and assisted in implementation of various Marine Protected Areas (MPA) education and outreach strategies, with the MPA Coordinator based at DFW.
  • Austin Piteg and Mary Fem Urena – Worked with the CNMI NOAA field office staff conducting water quality and seagrass monitoring along the length of the Saipan lagoon.
  • Eric Cepeda and Ian Iriarte – Worked with DFW fisheries department on various fishery biology and tourist – interaction projects.

We must work together to make a difference NOW


by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

Credit: AICOver the last several months, the jurisdictions and islands have faced extraordinary events that have impacted coral reefs and strained both resources and capacity.

CNMI continues to recover from Typhoon Soudelor, which hit in early August leaving Saipan without electricity or water for nearly three months in some areas. The jurisdictions have seen coral bleaching on reefs just barely recovering from last year’s bleaching event. Reports of bleaching from all across the Main Hawaiian Islands came in as early as September, as a result of water temperatures up to 91 degrees F. Florida is dealing with an unprecedented coral disease outbreak – the largest ever seen on the Florida Reef Tract.

And still, huge steps forward have been made in the jurisdictions and Freely Associated States (FAS) through accomplishments such as:

The Rain Garden Team, comprised of Community members, Village mayors, local and Federal Agency staff and Horsley Whitten Group, after the completion of the Faga’alu Rain Garden Installation in August. Credit: Coral Reef Advisory Group, August 26, 2015The first rain garden in American Samoa installed in Faga’alu. Multiple communities were trained and funding has been identified to expand this practice to other watersheds.

Garapan Conservation Action Plan Meeting with agency heads and legislators, Pacific Island Club Saipan, March 11-12, 2015. Credit: Jimmy Blancia, MediaIn CNMI, at a Garapan Conservation Action Planning Meeting, participants discussed strategies to improve conservation in this priority watershed.

Our Florida Reefs: River to Reefs waterways tour participants – August 2015. Credit: FDEP Coral Reef Conservation ProgramOur Florida Reefs: River to Reefs waterways tour brought together community members and elected officials to highlight the importance of protecting healthy estuaries to ensure healthy coral reefs.

Roxanna Miller, the new Coral Reef Monitoring Technician, finishes a coral quadrat survey while a monitoring assistant, Jacques Idechong, reels in the transect tape at a sampling station within the Tumon Bay monitoring site. Credit: Dave Burdick, Guam Long Term Monitoring ProjectThe draft Guam Reef Resilience strategy, detailing Guam’s response to specific coral reef threats and suggested implementation strategies, is scheduled to be completed by December 2015.

State of Hawaii, Division of Aquatic Resources’ coral hatchery. Credit: Dave GulkoHawai’i demonstrated success in urchin hatchery and coral nursery operations for mitigation. The state is also working toward establishing the first coral mitigation bank in the United States.

Collector plastic bins utilized to transport A. cervicornis from nurseries areas to relocation place in Belvedere and Pta. Guaniquilla Natural Reserve, Cabo Rojo. May, 2014. Credit: E. Irizarr, DNERWork was done, including volunteers, in Puerto Rico’s coral priority area, Cabo Rojo, with Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis, threatened coral species.

USVI-1_bayside tour.jsanchezA new Visitor’s Center was created at the St. Croix East End Marine Park in the U.S. Virgin Islands to help highlight the value of coral reef ecosystems.

Image by sharkdefenders.com; map by Google.

In the Federated States of Micronesia, a cooperative effort helped pass the landmark “Shark Bill”, which covers the nearly 3 million square miles of EEZ.

Meeting with Majuro Local Government and Coastal Management Advisory Council regarding  El Niño bleaching and possible regulations. Credit: Broderick MenkeThe Marshall Islands are working set forth new temporary regulations regarding fishing closures, fishing techniques, fish sales, and fish sizes in order to protect herbivores in anticipation of a bleaching event.

Palau-Photo #3The Palau International Coral Reef Center is studying the impacts of two super-typhoons on Palau coral reefs and will quantify their recovery potential and offer adapted management strategies to policymakers.


Awesome work managing and conserving our coral reefs occurs every day in the jurisdictions and FAS. We must continue to work together towards a better future for our coral reef ecosystems.

For more information, download our AIC Chair’s Report, presented to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force at their 34th meeting, October 26-30, 2015.

YOU Can Help Prevent Coral Bleaching

by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

Molokini Coral Bleaching Media Clips. Credit: Hawaii DLNR

Bleached coral at Molokini Crater, Hawaii (10/9/15, Hawaii DLNR).

You’ve probably seen the many articles about coral bleaching the last few months (Google News search: ~103,000 results!). Just last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared the third global coral bleaching event on record…THIRD…EVER.

If you’re thinking “this can’t be good,” you’re right. But don’t lose hope!

Quick Side-bar:
Coral bleaching is…”When corals are stressed by changes in [ocean] conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white.” (NOAA website)

Can corals recover from bleaching? YES. But, if bleaching lasts a long time, the coral usually dies. Interested in learning more? Check out our post and get the 4-1-1 on coral bleaching!

If you’re like me, you’ve asked yourself, “so what can I do?” There’s A LOT that we can do!

I really like this easy and straightforward list from The Nature Conservancy.

  1. Conserve water –> less runoff and wastewater
  2. Help reduce pollution –> less greenhouse gases= less ocean warming
  3. Use only organic fertilizers –> less pollution going into the ocean
  4. Dispose of your trash properly = no marine debris!
  5. Support reef-friendly businesses
  6. Plant a tree –> less greenhouse gases= less ocean warming
  7. Practice safe and responsible diving and snorkeling –> not touching or anchoring on corals = happier corals!
  8. Volunteer for a coral reef cleanup
  9. Contact your government representatives
  10. Spread the word!

We need our coral reefs.

Why? Check out these facts (International Coral Reef Initiative):

“…healthy coral reefs provide:

  • Habitat: Home to over 1 million diverse aquatic species, including thousands of fish species
  • Income: Billions of dollars and millions of jobs in over 100 countries around the world
  • Food: For people living near coral reefs, especially on small islands
  • Protection: A natural barrier protecting coastal cities, communities and beaches
  • Medicine: The potential for treatments for many of the world’s most prevalent and dangerous illnesses and diseases.”

Coral reefs are amazing. We need them and need to work together to make sure they’re around for future generations.

The Awesomeness that is the Coral Fellowship

by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat


As job postings for a new cohort of Coral Fellows are closing this Friday (7/31/15), I thought this would be a great “don’t you want to be part of all this awesomeness?” post/tickler.

While I was never a Coral Fellow myself, I’ve worked with fellows in the past, and have learned a lot over the past two years while helping the AIC highlight and push for the renewal of this very successful program.

Since its inception in 2003, the National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program has been a long-standing fellowship program within NOAA. After a brief hiatus, the program is back and built on a partnership between NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, the U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee, and the National Coral Reef Institute. Over the years, this program has provided opportunities for students and recent graduates to gain experience and knowledge in the field of coral reef management at the local level in the coral reef jurisdictions of the U.S. as well as with Federal government agencies like NOAA. A significant number of the previous fellows from this program have gone on to careers in the arena of coral reef and/or marine resources conservation and with the jurisdictional knowledge and understanding gained during the fellowship.

I have to admit that one of the most impressive things about this program is finding out what the fellows accomplished during their fellowship and where are they now. Here are a handful of VERY COOL highlights. 

  • Hawai’i – This fellow played a key role in supporting the work of Local Action Strategies in Hawai’i. Upon completion of her fellowship, she became a Planner for the Hawai’i Division of Aquatic Resources where she led the development of the Hawaii Coral Reef Strategy. She is currently the Reef Resilience Project Manager at The Nature Conservancy.
  • Puerto Rico – After finishing his fellowship he stayed with the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) for a while and has played a key role in the protection of coral reefs beyond his fellowship. He is now the representative of The Nature Conservancy in Puerto Rico and works hand on hand with the DNER Coral Reef Committee in strategies and activities to protect these ecosystems.
  • American Samoa – A former fellow coordinates the jurisdiction’s Coral Reef Advisory Group, which coordinates American Samoa’s coral reef management efforts and activities. Member agencies work together towards mutual consensus to manage coral reefs with the vision “to protect and conserve reefs for the benefit of the people of American Samoa, the United States, and the world.”
  • USVI – A USVI coral fellow stayed on with the St. Croix East End Marine Park (STXEEMP) after her fellowship through the one-year contract position. During that time she grew the Friends of STXEEMP group that she developed, supported implementation of park rules and regulations, and served as a liaison between the park and its users.
  • CNMI – It was with the help of a fellow that CNMI was awarded $2.9M (ARRA funding) for the improvement and management of Laolao Bay, a priority watershed. That fellow helped build and implement the Conservation Action Plan for that bay. Today, that fellow continues to work at the jurisdictional level as Lead Staff and Marine Resource Steward for Snohomish County, WA.
  • Guam – A former fellow remained on Guam and currently serves as a federal fisheries biologist and liaison as part of the Habitat Conservation Division of NOAA Fisheries’ Pacific Islands Regional Office.
  • Florida – Florida was able to keep their fellow on after the fellowship in her original position. She is responsible for coordinating the Maritime Industry and Coastal Construction Impacts focus area for Florida’s Local Action Strategy, the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI).

Now, don’t you want to be a Coral Fellow?! :)

National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program – JOB OPENINGS!

by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

Interested in learning more about coral reef ecosystem management in your own backyard? Looking for a job that will provide solid hands-on resource management experience? Working towards building your career in natural resource management related to coral reefs?  Want to be part of the next generation of coral reef conservation leaders?

If you answered YES to any of the above, READ ON…!

Anne Rosinski, previous Hawai'i Coral Reef Management Fellow.

Anne Rosinski, previous Hawai’i Coral Reef Management Fellow.

The renewed National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program provides participants an opportunity to experience and learn about coral reef management within the seven U.S. coral reef jurisdictions that make up the AIC: American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawai’i, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

This Fellowship Program is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, the U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee, and the National Coral Reef Institute.

Positions are open right now and close July 31, 2015.

Coral Reef Management Fellows are placed in state and territorial natural resource management agencies (the host agencies) in each of these jurisdictions every other year where they work on specific projects related to coral reef conservation. Although fellows are employed through NSU, they are essentially working for the host agencies and should consider their on-site fellowship supervisors to be their direct managers.

For additional information or questions about the fellowship positions, please contact John Tomczuk at john.tomczuk@noaa.gov.

Coral Reef Info-geekiness

by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

I’m dusting off the blog-webs with what I think is a pretty cool topic: Infographics. For all the geeks out there (like me!), this one’s for you!

I’ve been seeing a sprinkling of pretty awesome coral reef infographics recently and have posted a couple to our AIC Facebook page (like us here!). I decided that I’d do a quick Google image search for them and low and behold…the mother-load!

From NOAA to Pinterest, bleaching to coastal protection, infographics help deliver useful information in an easy-to-digest and visually-appealing way. Here are a few of my favorites! (Click on them to view larger)

http://www.aqua.org/~/media/Images/content/Coral%20Reefs%20Page/INFOGRAPHIC-Coral%20Reefs.jpgFrom the National Aquarium

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_bleach.htmlFrom NOAA

http://oceanwealth.org/stories/mapping-ocean-wealth-infographics/From The Nature Conservancy

http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/about/news-room/news/2014/05/13/coral-reefs-reduce-risks-from-natural-hazardsFrom Pew Charitable Trust

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/thingsyoucando.htmlAnother one from NOAA

http://blog.conservation.org/2014/11/3-reasons-to-be-thankful-for-coral-reefs/From Conservation International