Multi-nation Project

Staff below take samples from fish for laboratory testing as part of a five-nation pilot project monitoring vulnerability of coastal fisheries to climate change.
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MULTI-NATION PROJECT WILL ME THE KEY TO CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUE

MONITORING IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE: MIMRA staff take samples from fish for laboratory testing as part of five nation ilot project monitoring vulnerability of coastal fisheries to climate change

Five projects were approved with $20,000 grants each. The Coastal Fisheries Division also finalized work in FY2013 on Aquarium Fishery Regulations, which await endorsement from the Cabinet. The Policy, Planning and Statistics Section of the Coastal Fisheries Division worked to improve fish data collection with the introduction of biological sampling and plans for more dive surveys to compliment on-going work with the Coastal Management Advisory Council (CMAC), which comprises several other agencies and non-governmental organizations. The Division is also assisting outer atolls with the development of resource management plans and ordinances. With MIMRA support, Ailuk Local Government Council passed the first ever Fisheries Management Ordinances for an outer atoll.

Coastal fisheries staff played an active role in the implementation of the regional Micronesia Challenge that aims to effectively conserve 30 percent of near shore marine resources and 20 percent of terrestrial resources by 2020. Following the development of a regional Micronesia Challenge Communications Plan in 2011, MIMRA and its many partners in the Marshall Islands had the foundation in place to develop its own plan for engaging local and national audiences in the Micronesia Challenge. An integral part of the Micronesia Challenge is the Protected Areas Network in the RMI, which was the subject of major focus in FY2013. This included engaging with environment, community and political leaders from the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau on the Micronesia Challenge and Protected Areas Network.

MIMRA continued progress on a multination pilot project to monitor the vulnerability and adaptation of coastal fisheries to climate change. The project includes biological sampling work involving the RMI, Nauru, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Federated States of Micronesia in developing reference data. Through surveys of 14 species of fish, MIMRA is developing baseline information on growth rates of key coastal finfish. MIMRA staff made progress toward collecting a minimum of 30 individuals of each species. The second component of this project involves examining otoliths from the reef fish species collected in Majuro Atoll. Coastal fisheries officers who have been trained are continuing the survey work. When completed, the samples will be sent to laboratories at the French Institute of Research for Development and Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Noumea, New Caledonia for further analysis. The results are expected to improve our understanding of fish growth rates in the Marshall Islands, leading to better management of domestic fisheries resources. MIMRA staff attempted to collect fish at least three times a month, including whenever an opportunity arose during the fiscal year, such as a dive survey or a monitoring trip. Challenges faced with this project include limited staff, huge workload, zero budget and sea/weather conditions. The aim is to complete collection of 30 fish of all species by early 2015.

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Search for Changes in Coastal Fisheries

MIMRA actively monitored climate change impacts on coastal fisheries resources. Over a period of one month, staff from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Coastal Fisheries Science joined field officers from MIMRA’s Policy, Planning, and Statistics section to complete the first re-survey of baseline locations surveyed at Majuro Atoll in 2011. Fieldwork included monitoring of water temperature, benthic habitats, finfish, and invertebrate resources, creel surveys and biological sampling of key reef fishes. The project also allowed the opportunity for capacity building as MIMRA officers were trained in survey design and methodologies, data collection and entry, and data analysis. The survey was part of a “Monitoring the vulnerability and adaptation to climate change project” supported by the SPC with funding assistance from the Australian Government’s International Climate Change Adaptation Initiative (ICCAI). The goal is to determine whether changes are occurring in the productivity of coastal fisheries and, if changes are found, to identify the extent to which such changes are due to climate change.

Aquaculture is a priority for MIMRA and MIMRA continues to support giant clam farming on two outer islands. Giant clam farming was first developed with MIMRA support in 1985 as a pilot project to determine its feasibility. Positive results of the early pilot program led MIMRA to establish hatcheries in Likiep in 1993 and Arno in 2003. The two hatcheries both have encountered setbacks during FY2013 that resulted in sporadic operations. Five of the nine raceway tanks at the Likiep hatchery are in urgent need of repairs. The limited number of tanks is the major issue at Likiep because there are 183 local farmers. The lack of tanks has resulted in insufficient clam seed availability. While Arno’s tanks are in good condition, the main problem challenging operations there is the constant breakdown of the saltwater pump, which curtailed operations in FY2013. Plans are in place to address these issues in FY2014.

One local company exported 24,251 kilograms of frozen fish. The species Chlorurus microrhinos was the most popular fish.

Marine ornamental (or aquarium) exports continued to rise in FY2013. Local companies exported giant clams, live fish, corals and various marine invertebrates or
the overseas aquarium trade. For live fish, the Pomacanthidae family (angel fish) was the highest in demand. With giant clams, the species T. derasa is in high demand. For corals, Sacrophyton spp. (toadstool mushroom leather coral) species had the highest in production and export, and for Inverts, Paguristes Sp (hermit crabs) was high in demand. Clams and corals are raised by local farmers and by Marshall Island Mariculture Farm in Majuro. Certificates of origin and health are required when exporting marine ornamentals from the RMI. All clams exported from the Marshall Islands in FY2013 were hatchery- reared, a requirement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (known as CITES). Although the Marshall Islands is not a party to CITES, the permits MIMRA issues meet the CITES standards.

FY2013 marked the second year that MIMRA’s Outer Island Fish Market Center (OIFMC) has been operating in the Japan-donated fish market facility in Majuro. It was also the second year that the MIMRA vessel Laintok has been servicing atolls under the Kwajalein Atoll Fish Market Center (KAFMC). To respond to their customers’ preference for certain fish, both fish markets have increased their value adding activities to include more “ready-to-eat” products to address challenges to selling a high volume of less popular fresh fish.

The OIFMC on Majuro received fish from Arno (48 trips), Maloelap (18 trips), Aur (17 trips), Jaluit (8 trips), Wotje (2 trips), and one trip each from Mili, Likiep, Ailuk, and Namu that resulted in fishers directly receiving over $116,000 for their fish and fish products. 

The OIFMC enforced quality and size limits on the fish that were brought in from the outer islands and with fuel costs continuing to remain high, OIFMC has also initiated grouping atolls (Wotje-Likiep, Wotje-Ailuk, and Aur-Maloelap) in one trip to maximize the amount of fish per trip landed on Majuro. Although the number of trips to individual atolls decreased for some, the total number of trips made by OIFMC vessels from Majuro increased to 98 trips compared with 55 for the previous fiscal year.

Although KAFMC now has a vessel to use for trips to its fish base partners and projects, due to limited availability and high cost of fuel on Ebeye, trips to the outer islands to collect fish and local food products remained limited and inconsistent.

Nonetheless KAFMC supplied a limited amount of fish to the Ebeye community through direct purchase of fish from Namu, Ailinglaplap, Ailuk, Likiep and Ebeye fishers as well as providing assistance in fuel and ice provisions. For FY2013, fishers received $32,040.64 for their fish and $6,111.82 for local produce sold to the KAFMC. In March 2013, fish brought in from Ailinglaplap was suspected of ciguatera poisoning. All fish from that purchase were recalled and disposed of, resulting in an operational loss for KAFMC. 

Ongoing support from the Japan Overseas Fisheries Cooperation Foundation (OFCF) to provide new equipment and repair or renovate equipment and facilities continued in FY2013. In response to a MIMRA annual request, OFCF officials conducted field surveys and consulted with MIMRA to develop an agreement and implementation plan for FY2013. OFCF-supported projects implemented in FY2013 included replacement of: community fishing boats and outboard motors; cold storage unitsIMFMC AND KAFMC in Ebeye. The project also involved repair and maintenance of MIMRA ice plant and KAFMC ice plant; advice for management of Jaluit fish base; and management advice for OIFMC. MIMRA is also seeking OFCF assistance for the repair and restoration of outboard motors of MIMRA community fishing boats; MIMRA transport boats; and MIMRA ice plant and KAFMC ice plant. MIMRA is also seeking workshop support for an in-service training for staff on the functions of MIMRA, and technical advice from counterparts to fishing boat operators.

Going forward, the Coastal Fisheries Division is focused on improving and streamlining its programs for outer atoll communities, and coordinating more with local partners on Majuro activities.

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