AIC Chair’s Report, Sept 2016: Priorities, updates, challenges, & accomplishments

aic-chairs-rpt-sept-2016-photos

by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

The U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee (AIC) is still in the Marianas (until Saturday) participating in the 36th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) Meeting, but wanted to share with you some of what’s been happening since the AIC last met in February 2016.

In the Marianas, warming waters have already caused coral reef bleaching–for yet another consecutive year. Florida continues to deal with an unprecedented coral disease outbreak. And, in other jurisdictions grounded vessels, invasive species, and land-based pollution impacts, to name a few, continue.

For the AIC, strengthening federal-jurisdiction integration and partnerships, the Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program, and Coral Reef Conservation Act (of 2000) reauthorization remain top priorities.

Now, more than ever, it is critical that we continue to work together to make a positive difference for our coral reefs.

Towards that end, the approval at the 36th USCRTF Meeting of two very important documents (“U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Strategy, FY2016-2021” and “U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Watershed Partnership Initiative Strategy”) is a huge accomplishment and the AIC is proud to have helped build both documents.

For more information and details, check out the newest AIC Chair’s Report presented at the 36th USCRTF Meeting in the Marianas.  

Read through it here or download it here.

Kids in American Samoa: Fighting stormwater runoff, one rain garden at a time!

By guest AIC blogger, Sabrina Woofter, Coral Reef Management Fellow, American Samoa Coral Reef Advisory Group

Le Tausagi Rain Garden, American Samoa

The Le Tausagi summer camp admires their completed rain garden!  Photo credit: Coral Reef Advisory Group

Le Tausagi Rain Garden

A camper prepares to plant ti. Photo credit: Coral Reef Advisory Group

Le Tausagi, an outreach group comprised of staff from American Samoa environmental and youth agencies, held their annual Enviro Discoveries Summer Camp on July 14th and 15th, 2016. Throughout the 2-day event, about 30 children and 15 staff and volunteers discussed local natural resources and the impacts that humans have on them. As the  Coral Reef Management Fellow, I used a watershed model to explain how we can help protect the coral reef ecosystem by preserving and planting vegetation in our watersheds and reducing land-based sources of pollution.

Le Tausagi Rain Garden

Campers and staff are working hard to plant, water, and mulch. Photo credit: Coral Reef Advisory Group

The camp culminated with an installation of a 600 ft2 rain garden that now captures stormwater runoff from an adjacent basketball court and rooftop. The garden was installed at a public park located in the impaired Nu’uuli Pala Lagoon watershed. Rain gardens like this one are stormwater best management practices (BMPs) that use plants, mulch, and soil in a depression to slow down and clean stormwater runoff, letting it infiltrate the ground. Stormwater contributes to poor surface water quality and often contains pollutants, such as sediment and nutrients, that can damage coral reef ecosystems. Rain gardens are one type of practice that can be used along with others to help improve water quality and the health of coral reefs.

New Tools Help in Ridge-to-Reef Watershed Management

Hot of the presses from the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force are two new tools to help in effective watershed management from ridge-to-reef!

[modified from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program website]

Priority-Ecosystem-Indicators1) Priority Ecosystem Indicators:
The first is a series of ecological indicators and measurements to evaluate the success of existing watershed management efforts. The indicators look at coral communities, as well as sediment and water quality. Nearly all were selected from existing national-scale monitoring efforts by federal agencies.

 

Pages from FINAL_Programmatic_Checklist_version_2_10.22.152) Programmatic Checklist:
The second is a user-friendly checklist
that walks watershed coordinators through a series of questions to help them implement a successful ridge-to-reef watershed management plan. The checklist helps gauge support from stakeholders–including local groups and federal agencies–and documents overall progress as a ridge-to-reef watershed management plan is implemented. The checklist is meant to be completed on an annual basis to track progress.

You can download them both at http://www.coris.noaa.gov/activities/uscrtf_watershed_tools/.

AIC Chair’s Report: Priorities, updates, challenges, & accomplishments

AIC Chair's Report - Feb 2016

by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

In the three months since the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force last met, efforts to conserve and manage our coral reefs have continued. Thankfully, the winter season brought cooler waters and a much needed reprieve for our coral reefs, many of which have suffered back-to-back years of bleaching. However, in areas like southeast Florida, the number of corals impacted by an unprecedented disease event continues to grow and the cause(s) of the disease has yet to be identified.

Coral bleaching from warming oceans, ocean acidification, Crown of Thorns Starfish outbreaks, ship groundings, coral disease outbreaks, invasive algae, land-based sources of pollution, and so many other things impact our coral reefs each day.

We must stretch beyond the ‘status quo’ and work together, as federal agencies and jurisdictions, to make a difference NOW.

AIC Chair's Report, Feb. 2016At each biannual U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) meeting, the AIC Chair presents a report of AIC priorities, challenges, and accomplishments in every AIC jurisdiction and the Freely Associated States since the previous Task Force meeting. Check out the newest AIC Chair’s Report presented at the 35th USCRTF meeting in Washington D.C.  

Read through it here or download it here.

 

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.

 

2015 CRI SUMMER INTERNS:

  • 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.