Lenger Marine Protected Area Opens
By Willy Kostka, Seacology Island Advisory Board Member
Pohnpei, "the jewel of the Pacific", is an island steeped in natural beauty and surrounded by some of the most diverse marine habitats in the world. Recognizing the need to conserve this unique but threatened ecosystem, the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP) was founded in 1998 with the mission of protecting and preserving the natural resources of the island. The CSP's approach is community based, and local communities, chiefs and officials are included in every step of the conservation process.
A model of this grassroots approach is the Lenger Island Marine Protected Area, which was opened on March 1st, 2000. Lenger is a small island located within the Pohnpei barrier reef, a 15-minute boat trip from Pohnpei's capital city Kolonia. The close-knit makeup of the island community, which consists of six families and one traditional chief, makes it ideal for this type of project. The CSP and its partners worked with the Lenger inhabitants to design, establish and maintain the MPA. Reef markers have been installed to distinguish the boundaries, identify the restricted zones and decrease the impact of anchor damage. CSP is also working with the Lenger community to develop environmentally friendly economic sources of revenue, such as sponge farms and eco-tourism. However, part of the MPA is a restricted area where no fishing or harvesting of any plant or animal life will take place. This community-led MPA is the first of its kind in the Federated States of Micronesia and will hopefully serve as a model for others.
Seacology's grant of $10,000 was instrumental to the success of the project. Seacology funds were used for the purchase and maintenance of a boat, with its motor and accessories. This boat is used to conduct surveys and to help develop sustainable economic development for the Lenger inhabitants.
An opening ceremony was held at Lenger on March 1st and was attended by Honorable Quirino Mendiola, the state legislator for the Nett Municipality, Bernd Cordes and Will Novy-Hildesley of The Packard Foundation, the Australian Ambassador, Seacology Island Advisory Board member Willy Kostka, representatives from the Pohnpei State Marine Conservation Office, the Kaselehlie Press, V6AH radio station, Bank of FSM, CSP Board members and staff, the traditional chief and the entire community of Lenger. The ceremony began with a blessing of the project by Deacon Adelino Lorens, after which the local community shared their thoughts and feelings, and the guest speakers expressed their support and encouragement. After the speeches, a sakau (Kava) ceremony was held. Sakau is an important ceremonial beverage, which is made from the pounded roots of the pepper shrub strained through shredded hibiscus bark. It is an important element of all major Pohnpeian gatherings. Food was provided and served by the women of Lenger, and mwaramwars (traditional head wreaths made of fresh flowers) were presented to all the guests.