New Seacology Projects!
Seacology's Board of Directors came together for their semiannual meeting at the end of January. Among other things, they discussed and approved Seacology's most recent round of island conservation projects.
From protecting a stand of massive ka trees known for their buttressed roots in the Micronesian state of Kosrae, to creating a mangrove reserve and a coastal resources center in Sri Lanka, Seacology is continuing its transformational work protecting the world's islands and their people. Also included in our most recent batch of projects is the whale shark project that we wrote about last fall, where Seacology is working to save the habitat of the world's largest species of fish. Read on for details on all of our new projects:
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA:
Visitor's center, boardwalk and waterway rehabilitation in exchange for the creation of an 87-acre no-take freshwater wetland Terminalia forest in perpetuity, Yela Valley, Tafunsak Municipality, Kosrae. Yela Valley contains the largest stand of Terminalia carolinensis (locally known as "Ka") trees remaining in the world. The freshwater forested wetland in the Yela Valley is the heart of an unusually pristine tropical watershed extending from the ridgetop to the reef. In 2006, the traditional landowners formed a community-based organization called YELA (Yela Environment Landowners Authority) to locally manage this privately-owned property as a "protected area" in Kosrae. The most interesting species for conservation in the area are the mighty and majestic Terminalia carolinensis themselves. This remarkably intact forest also provides habitat for the endangered Micronesian pigeon (Ducula oceanica) and Mariana fruit bat (Pteropus mariannus). To promote ecotourism in the area, Seacology is funding construction of a visitors center and a 265-foot boardwalk across the swamp, and clearing of key waterways to allow impact-free access to the forest area by boat in exchange for the establishment of the 87-acre area as a no-take reserve in perpetuity.
Community health clinic in support of a 939-acre existing no-take forest reserve and the creation of a new 74-acre no-take forest reserve for a minimum duration of 10 years, Sano Nggoang Village, Flores Island. Sano Nggoang, located on the southwest coast of Flores Island, is one of 27 villages located around the 63,738-acre Mbeliling Forest. This "protected" forest was first established under Dutch rule and then expanded by the Indonesian government in 1991. The Mbeliling Forest consists of two types of tropical rainforest ecosystems and is rich in limited-range bird life and endemic bird species, and serves as a critical watershed area for nearly 33,000 people who live in the area. Sano Nggoang Village suffers from virtually no form of medical care. There is a decrepit building that serves as a health post with a medic allotted to the area, who stays in a different village and visits Sano Nggoang about once a month due to lack of facilities in the village. The closest clinic is located in the village of Werang, about a two to three hour drive, and public transportation is only available twice a week on very bad roads. Malaria is common, and health care for children and pre-natal women is severely lacking. In exchange for the village's commitment to conservation of an existing 939 acres of Mbeliling Forest and the creation of new 74-acre community forest as a no-take zone for a minimum duration of 10 years, Seacology is funding construction of a new community health clinic. Local NGO Burung Indonesia has drafted a Nature Protection agreement with the involvement of all 27 villages around the Mbeliling Forest in their local dialect to encompass rules and sanctions of the protected forest. Seacology partnered with Burung on two other successful projects around the Mbeliling Forest, at Cunca Lolos and Benteng Dewa Villages.
Demarcation (traffic separation) buoy to protect whale sharks, Isla Mujeres area, Yucatan Peninsula. Sharks have experienced serious population declines in the past half century. Perhaps the most enigmatic of all sharks is also the largest of all fishes - the whale shark. Long regarded as a solitary ocean voyager, recent evidence shows that they can be quite gregarious and spend a lot of time relatively close to coasts. Hundreds of whale sharks gather seasonally to feed off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula in a spectacular and previously unrecorded biological event. From May through September, there are huge aggregations of whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine species off Holbox Island. A second and larger seasonal aggregation, the Afuera, occurs of the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula north of Isla Mujeres. The proximity to a highly developed coastal region highlights a pressing need to protect this and all coastal whale shark aggregations. Most of the area in which the sharks congregate was established in 2009 by the Mexican government as a Whale Shark Biosphere Reserve. Unfortunately, collisions between major vessels (cargo/freight ships, oil tankers etc.) and the sharks are not uncommon. Seacology is supporting the Domino Project (Dominos are a nickname for whale sharks due to their white spots) by funding a demarcation/traffic separation buoy in the area of the Afuera to alert vessels to the presence of the whale sharks. The buoy's beacon will be visible at night from a range of over five miles. The solar-powered buoy will also be equipped with GPS and a radar reflector, and will deploy radio-transmitted messages. This system will assist vessels in avoiding the whale sharks. It will also protect visitors to the area who take tour boats to view and swim with the creatures.
Construction of a Multi-Purpose Building in support of the extension of a 15 hectare (37 acre) Marine Protected Area for an additional 20 years, Barangay Canipo, Municipality of Magsaysay, Northeastern Palawan. Barangay Canipo, with a population of about 1,500, is an isolated island barangay (village) in the Municipality of Magsaysay, Palawan Province. The Andres Soriano Foundation (ASF, with whom Seacology has partnered before in Barangays Manamoc and Rizal) has been assisting Canipo in protecting and conserving its natural resources. In 2005, the Barangay passed a resolution declaring a 15 hectare (37 acre) portion of its coastal area as a Marine Protected Area (MPA). Since the MPA's establishment, use of destructive fishing methods such as dynamite, sodium cyanide, and fine nets have dramatically declined, and consequently, marine life in the area is on the increase. Villagers who used to engage in dynamite fishing are now raising livestock in the hills of the island. To strengthen community support for the MPA, the local fisherfolk organization regularly conducts Coastal Resource Management Seminars and alternative livelihood symposia for its members through the Barangay Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council. There is no sheltered place for these meetings to take place. The community needs a venue for its activities and is requesting Seacology's assistance for the construction of a multipurpose building in support of their commitment to protect the MPA. In return, they pledge to keep protecting the MPA for at least 20 years more.
Construction of a coastal resource conservation and livelihood development center in exchange for the conservation of 2,965 acres of coast swamp and mangrove for a minimum duration of 10 years, Uraniya Lagoon, Ampare District, Eastern Province. The communities of the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka are slowly recovering from a 30-year Civil War, which ended in 2009. However, the communities continue to feel losses; they have been displaced from their original homes, 22 percent of families lost their breadwinners, and 38 percent of children lost their schools. The majority of women are destitute (29,856 total in the province). Most of them belong to the fishing community and engage in shallow water fishing; their life support depends on the coastal lagoon system. The war also caused great destruction to the coastal swamps and mangrove ecosystem. The natural tidal system and drainage were blocked, and fish breeding grounds completely dried up. The estimated loss of coastal forest and swamp in the Ampare District is 2,965 acres. The Small Fishers Federation of Sri Lanka (SFFL), with whom Seacology partnered to fund the Kiralakele Mangrove Resource Centre in Sri Lanka's south, wishes to build a community resource conservation and livelihood development center. Vocational training will be provided to women and school dropouts, mainly from the Tamil community, to help rehabilitate them. In exchange, the community will protect 2,965 acres of coastal swamp and mangrove area. Within this area, 642 acres will be replanted with 260,000 mangroves and be protected as a demonstration area. More than 420,000 schoolchildren in the Eastern Province will have access to the center. Widows and school dropouts will be engaged in conservation and protection activities, and will learn business skills without damaging the coastal environment. The area will be protected for a minimum of 10 years.