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.

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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.

The Awesomeness that is the Coral Fellowship

by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

CoralFellow_Collage

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.

Hawaii Ocean User Action Alert: Nearshore coral bleaching

A press release from the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Photos of coral bleaching throughout the State, submitted to  the Eyes of the Reef (EOR) Network. Credit: EOR

Posted on Oct 6, 2014

HIGH SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES CAUSE NEAR SHORE CORAL BLEACHING 
DLNR-DAR Rapid Response Team Investigates Oahu Bleaching

HONOLULU – Higher than normal sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have resulted in above-normal levels of coral bleaching at numerous near-shore locations on Oahu. This is especially severe along the windward coastline. Reports from ocean users and Eyes of the Reef Network (eorhawaii.org) volunteers prompted a response from the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) Coral Rapid Response Team.

Over the past week the DAR team, along with partners, The Nature Conservancy and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) have conducted in-water surveys and assessments in Kaneohe Bay and off Lanikai and Waimanalo beaches. “Unfortunately, we are seeing evidence of wide-spread bleaching in shallow, near shore waters of windward Oahu,” said Frazer McGilvray, DAR administrator. “Coral bleaching is a stress response due to warmer ocean temperatures. Corals lose the color from their tissue, turning them snow white.”

Over the past few weeks, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch program has continued a high coral bleaching alert for waters around the Hawaiian archipelago. The warnings are based on indicated high SSTs, resulting in a high likelihood for bleaching.

Moderate to severe coral bleaching has also been observed in Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument, co-managed by state and federal partners. Divers from HIMB and NOAA conducted surveys in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands during a recently completed research trip.

William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR Chair said, “Corals can recover from bleaching if temperatures return to a normal range, but it can take many weeks to many years for them to fully recover from a bleaching event. Unfortunately, temperature forecasts suggest that the risk of bleaching will increase over the next several weeks. It is important that we continue to monitor the extent and severity of this bleaching event. It’s also critical that ocean users avoid disturbing corals at any time to avoid additional stress on them.”

Ocean users are encouraged to report coral bleaching through the Eyes of the Reef Network, which helps the DAR Rapid Response Team evaluate reef conditions and inform best management options. The department encourages anyone with underwater cameras to send photographs of bleached corals to RRCPCoordinator@gmail.com.

The NOAA Coral Watch prediction tool click may be viewed at: coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/index.php

EOR call to action, 9/25/14.