BIBA-SEM! Socioeconomic monitoring in Micronesia: Reflections from the facilitators

By Supin Wongbusarakum

SEM_teamThis fall, I traveled to Guam to participate in an energizing Training-of-Trainers (ToT) workshop—for socioeconomic monitoring training—as one of three facilitators. The workshop brought together nine representatives from five countries[1], in Micronesia and Hawai‘i, and is the latest effort to provide socioeconomic data and information to support the Micronesia Challenge. The Micronesia Challenge is an agreement between these five countries to effectively conserve at least 30% of the near-shore marine resources and 20% of the terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020. Understanding the social, cultural, economic, and political characteristics of these islands is critical to helping resource managers identify potential problems and opportunities, and focus management priorities[2].

Chief Gadao, a legendary chief of Inarajan, a historic village that we visited in southern Guam.

Chief Gadao, a legendary chief of Inarajan, a historic village that we visited in southern Guam.

The aim of this recent workshop was to build on many previous efforts, including two Socioeconomic Measures workshops conducted in 2012 and 2015, and funded through the generous support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT), and Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance (MINA). These two previous workshops developed and tested a set of socioeconomic indicators for all Micronesia Challenge sites and established a regional core socioeconomic monitoring team. With this foundation and ongoing financial commitments from these partners, the recent workshop was the first opportunity to begin training this core monitoring team and building capacity at the Micronesian regional level.

Core SEM team members and facilitators discussed topics for next training workshop in 2016

Core SEM team members and facilitators discussed topics for next training workshop in 2016

We spent the first week deepening the team’s knowledge of socioeconomic monitoring (SEM) based on the guiding document, Socioeconomic Monitoring Guidelines for Coastal Managers in Pacific Island Countries (commonly known as SEM-Pasifika[3]), which was developed and launched by NOAA and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme in 2008. They also worked on planning sessions and practiced their training skills for a socioeconomic monitoring workshop that was conducted with local participants from Guam in the second week.

The trainers-in-training for socioeconomic monitoring in Micronesia include:
Angel Jonathan, Conservation Society of Pohnpei
Bertha Reyuw, Yap Community Action Program
Bond Segal, Kosrae Conservation Safety Organization
Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong, MINA
Kriskitina Kanemoto, formerly with Chuuk Conservation Society
Mark Stege, Marshall Islands Conservation Society
Rachael Nash, Micronesia Challenge
Shirley Koshiba, Palau International Coral Reef Center
Erin Zanre, Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources

All three facilitators came away from this training with a renewed energy and commitment to strengthening socioeconomic monitoring efforts in the region and building capacity of the core team.

Here are my reflections on the workshop as well as those of my two co-facilitators, Brooke Nevitt and Marybelle Quinata.

Supin Wongbusarakum (NOAA PIFSC Ecosystem Sciences Division), “As a social scientist involved in developing guidelines for socioeconomic monitoring and assessing conservation impacts, I do not need convincing that socioeconomic monitoring helps us better plan, manage and conserve marine and coastal resources. The key question to me has not been the importance of SEM, but how we can strengthen and sustain it. After multiple years of SEM efforts in the region, we began to establish baseline data for different sites, some of which has already been used for better planning or management. However, we do not have real monitoring planned for the sites with baseline data and there has been little synergy and exchange across the islands. We needed to find a more strategic way to make the best use of our limited funding and human resources to grow and ensure the sustainability of SEM. One way to do this is to have a regional team committed to SEM efforts and hold strategic planning meetings that allow us to review what has happened and determine how best to move toward effective monitoring and sustainability. I am delighted to see a team forming and a Micronesia Challenge monitoring plan in development. As I learned from Brooke, a cheer in her language, Biba SEM!”

Brooke Nevitt (MINA) Coordinator for Micronesia Challenge Socioeconomic Monitoring, “We have a team! This is SO exciting! Two years ago, Supin came to me and said, ‘Brooke, I think we should try something different than the one-time trainings and assessments we lead around the region.’ And here we are. With representatives from each jurisdiction, we have the opportunity to really move socioeconomic monitoring forward. All of the team members agree that this work is necessary and critical. There is so much work still to be done. But, tackling it together with the support of Shirley, Mark, Kodep, Bond, Angel, Marybelle, Kris, and Bertha, we are making great strides forward. As we would say in the CNMI, Biba SEM! Biba SEM!

Marybelle Quinata (Pacific Islands Regional Office, NMFS, NOAA Guam Field Office), “Working with Supin, Brooke, and the rest of the team has been an exciting learning experience because all of us entered the socioeconomic realm under different circumstances with different professional backgrounds. However, one common factor that unites us is a commitment to our communities that rely on our islands’ natural resources, not just for survival but also to preserve our cultural heritage and identity as Pacific Islanders of Micronesia and the Marianas. During the SEM-Pasifika Workshop in Guam, trainers and trainers-in-training pushed their personal limits. We learned about our strengths, acknowledged our weaknesses, and helped one another improve as facilitators. As the first of its kind, this SEM-Pasifika workshop proved to be a unique learning experience that tested us as a team and also at an individual level. And just like our islands, our team has grown more resilient because of it. I look forward to increasing our knowledge, capabilities, and ambitions as the SEM Core Team Family! Biba!”

Core SEM team members with Guam participants and facilitators.

Core SEM team members with Guam participants and facilitators.

[1] The five Micronesia Challenge countries include Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall islands.

[2] Visit to learn more about the Micronesia Challenge.

[3] A copy of the guiding document can be downloaded from the SocMon website.

Posted in Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NOAA Leads GIS Workshop in Timor-Leste

By Max Sudnovsky and Annette DesRochers

NOAA Fisheries’ team members Annette DesRochers and Max Sudnovsky of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program (CREP) recently returned from a productive visit to Dili, Timor-Leste. Nearing the end of a four-year collaborative partnership between NOAA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), DesRochers and Sudnovsky conducted a workshop over three days in support of the Government of Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) Agriculture and Land-Use Geographic Information System (AL-GIS).

Workshop participants from left to right: Alsina F Moulein, DNPA; Horacio Santos, DNGRIP; Maria B de Jesus, DNPs; Orlando H. Kalis, DNGRIP; Rita Soares, DNPs; Jose Quintao, DNPs; Annette DesRochers, NOAA; and Adina Alves, DNPs. Workshop participants not present in the photo include Alda Sousa, DNPA and Max Sudnovsky, NOAA. DNPA = Directorate National For Fisheries and Aquaculture, DNGRIP = Directorate National for Resource Management and Inspection, DNPs = Directorate National For Research.

Workshop participants from left to right: Alsina F Moulein, DNPA; Horacio Santos, DNGRIP; Maria B de Jesus, DNPs; Orlando H. Kalis, DNGRIP; Rita Soares, DNPs; Jose Quintao, DNPs; Annette DesRochers, NOAA; and Adina Alves, DNPs. Workshop participants not present in the photo include Alda Sousa, DNPA and Max Sudnovsky, NOAA.

The workshop was designed to provide the AL-GIS team with an introduction to how NOAA manages coral reef data and how to link the science to support fisheries management in Timor-Leste. Workshop participants from the Directorate National Fisheries and Aquaculture (DNPA), Directorate National for Resource Management and Inspection (DNGRIP), and the Directorate National for Research (DNPs) explored how to make use of the data collected by NOAA-CREP in Timor-Leste.

Workshop participants navigate a geographic information system with the coral reef data NOAA collected for Timor-Leste.

Workshop participants navigate maps of Timor-Leste with the coral reef data collected by NOAA.

Through a series of instructional and “hands-on” GIS exercises, participants learned how to create maps of coral reef baseline data, collected by NOAA and our partners, from 2012 to 2014 and utilize the satellite-derived basemaps that NOAA-CREP developed for the nearshore areas around Timor-Leste.

This workshop was made possible in part with funding from the NOAA Fisheries International Activities and Seafood Inspection Program and served as an interim opportunity to share the draft data results that have been prepared by NOAA-CREP through the NOAA-USAID Timor-Leste partnership. The final results for in-country presentation will be coordinated with MAF in early 2016.

Example of the WorldView-2 satellite image and ground-truth data (left) used to derive bathymetry for the near-shore areas around Timor-Leste (right).

Example of the WorldView-2 satellite image and ground-truth data (left) used to derive bathymetry for the near-shore areas around Timor-Leste (right).

Following the workshop, Michael Abbey of the International Activities and Seafood Inspection Program held a half-day meeting for the MAF fisheries managers and participants from the GIS workshop. The goal of the meeting was to discuss how to bridge the gap between fisheries management and GIS in the context of an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management and to explore NOAA’s potential future engagement to support such activities in Timor-Leste.

The NOAA team also participated in a U.S. Embassy Outreach event, “Amérika iha Timor-Leste: Parseria ba Prosperidade,” at Timor Plaza. This event was a day-long exhibition showcasing the relationship between the United States and Timor-Leste. At the event, participants learned about initiatives in the areas of economic growth, defense cooperation, democracy and governance, safety and security, health, education, and inter-country exchange to build a more prosperous Timor-Leste. Visitors also participated in many activities, contests, and quizzes—both live and online—throughout the day. The NOAA booth was one of the most popular stops for many parents and children!


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Considering catch share management for the Hawaii longline fishery

The Hawaii longline fleet is currently subject to catch quotas for bigeye tuna assigned by two regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). One quota is assigned by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), for bigeye tuna caught in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), denoted as west of 150-degree W longitude. A second quota is assigned by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and applies to vessels greater than 24m in length for bigeye tuna caught in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO), denoted as east of 150-degree W longitude.

source: Pew Charitable Trusts

source: Pew Charitable Trusts

These quotas have been reached in recent years leading to periods of fishery closures (2009, 2010, and 2015) and localized socioeconomic impacts. Additionally, the quota in the WCPO is scheduled to decrease further in the future, creating uncertainty for fishery stakeholders.

PIFSC Socioeconomics Program researchers Kolter Kalberg and Thuy Tran – representing the University of Hawaii Joint Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) and Lynker Technologies, respectively, will be in the field between September 2015 and January 2016 to talk to fishermen and fishery stakeholders to better understand: (a) current fishery conditions; (b) concerns for the fishery; (c) management priorities; (d) outlook for the future; (e) knowledge of catch share programs; and (f) interest in considering catch share management.

A catch shares program is a strategy of managing a fishery under a quota which allocates a portion of the total allowable catch to an individual, boat, permit, cooperative, or other entity within that fishery. When participants have caught their portion of fish, they must stop fishing, or acquire rights from another participant.

These management programs have become increasingly popular around the globe, and can be designed and adapted to creatively meet the needs of fishery participants. Quota allocations can be fixed, dynamic, transferable, or a mix of these types. In other applications, quota allocations have been determined by historical catch, even distribution, vessel size, auction-based allocation, or some mix of these methods.

The goal of this research is to start the conversation as to whether alternative management strategies could better meet the needs and priorities of the Hawaii longline fleet and fishery stakeholders. It may be that a catch share management system could provide benefits to fishery stakeholders relative to the current management system — maybe not.

Things to consider about catch shares for the Hawaii longline fleet

  • Allocation – How would allocation occur?
  • Transferability – Should rights be able to be traded or sold?
  • New Entrants – How would new entrants and people exiting the fleet be treated?
  • Crew – How would crew members be considered in this program?
  • Authority – Who would manage the operations of the program?
  • Consolidation Concerns – Should there be limits on the concentration of shares?
  • Equity – Who decides if it is fair?


Click here to download an informational brochure supporting this project (versions in first languages: Vietnamese, Korean)

Click here to watch a short informational video supporting this project.

For more information about this research feel free to contact us:

For more information about other research from the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program visit our website or browse recent blog posts.

Posted in Socioeconomics and Planning Group, Socioeconomics Program | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We are sailing across the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands aboard the NOAA Research Vessel Oscar Elton Sette. 

The Sette is a working ship: Researchers undertake numerous scientific endeavors; engineers ensure the engines pulse and drive us forward; officers keep us sailing safely; stewards create amazing meals and keep everyone happy; and the crew makes sure that everything else that needs to happen, happens.

On this working ship, the low rumble of engines vibrates throughout the whole structure.  The air is tinged with the smell of diesel, the lifeblood of our ship.  There are incessant bangs and clangs, the chorus of a gently rocking ship.

And then there is the laughter, barked commands, and chatter of the diverse individuals that have found themselves on this tiny ship in the middle of the Pacific.  It is a group of people with a shared mission, which turns strangers into teammates and teammates into family.

This is what life was like on the ship until just recently.

But now, new smells have permeated the air, and they are not sweet smells.  New sounds reverberate throughout the ship at odd hours, but they are far from peaceful or soothing.  With this odor and cacophony, it is hard to get enough sleep.  And yet we are eternally grateful, for these are the smells and sounds of hope, the stench and clamor of dreams coming true.

There are monk seals on board!

With the world-class rehabilitation facilities at the Hawaiian monk seal hospital, Ke Kai Ola, our research vessel has become a kind of ambulance staffed with first responders who bring seals on the brink of starvation to salvation, and then return them to the wild.  This research cruise, like many of our recent cruises, has been busy with rehabilitation activities.

Our first patient on the cruise took us by surprise.  It was the second day of our mission, and we deployed our team for a day to Ni’ihau to survey for monk seals.  One of the survey teams came across a tiny emaciated female pup; the story is told here.  This little one, which the folks on Ni’ihau named Kilo, is doing well so far.

Hawaiian monk seals, Pearl and Hermes eating

Hawaiian monk seals, Pearl and Hermes, eating fish.

Several days later, we loaded Pearl and Hermes, two recent patients of Ke Kai Ola, onto the ship.  Their three month stay in the hospital served them well.  Gone were the tiny pups we had brought in — the two seals that found themselves on the aft deck of the Sette were blubbery masses ready for freedom.  We just have to get them back to their natal atoll.  A good narrative on what it is like to take care of these portly passengers can be found here.

But now, I would like to introduce you to a new passenger aboard the Sette.

Earlier this week, we diverted our mission at Mokumanamana to head directly to French Frigate Shoals (FFS), where team members had found an emaciated female pup in need of rehabilitation.  We weren’t scheduled to stop at FFS until the return leg of the cruise — some 14 days later — but the FFS team was doubtful the pup would last that long.  Though our stop at Mokumanamana was critical for a few reasons, we are in the business of saving seals, so the island would have to wait.

Green Sea Turtle and Hawaian monk seal (AG18) on beach

On the right, Ke Kai Ola rehab candidate, Hawaiian monk seal, AG18 also known as Ama’ama.

A day later, we arrived at FFS and were greeted by a small vessel carrying four hardened field biologists and one tragically tiny pup.  The small boat pulled alongside the Sette and the FFS team quickly handed the pup up to the waiting crew.  AG18 had embarked, we thought, until we heard a shout from the FFS team over the railing: “Her name is Ama’ama.” So, Ama’ama had embarked.

(Side note: Ama’ama is Hawaiian for striped mullet, a fish.  Ama, as she’s called for short, was born on Mullet Island at FFS and now bears the name of her home.)

We have been holding off on sharing Ama’ama with you, as she was in pretty rough shape and the first day or two of rehabilitation is always critical for any seal.  As can be expected, she needed hydration, electrolytes, and food, but she also needed rest and quiet — a delicate balance. It had been a nervous period for all on board, but we think we are through the worst of it.  And though there is much to tell about her care, we will save that for another day.  For now, we just want to report that she is doing well.

And our family on the Sette is doing well, too.  Every morning we are greeted by the calls of Ama, Pearl, and Hermes that float across the deck.  They remind us of the awesome honor and responsibility we have in this grand challenge to recover monk seals.

Challenge accepted.

Posted in From PIFSC Director's Office, Protected Species Division (PSD) | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

NOAA’s A.R.C. Sets Sail: The Hawaiian Monk Seal Assessment and Recovery Camps Cruise is Headed Back to the NWHI

Aloha from on board the NOAA Research Vessel Oscar Elton Sette as we undertake our mission to help the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Our cruise, formally known as SE-15-06, is to support our annual Hawaiian Monk Seal Assessment and Recovery Camps, a critical piece in our efforts to understand monk seal ecology and population trends and undertake a variety of actions to help increase monk seal survival.

The field season stretches over the summer and is usually 3-4 months in duration and is bookended on each side with a research cruise. The first is to deploy the camps and the second, the one we are currently embarked on, is to recover our field research teams. Our teams have been deployed at 5 of the 6 main monk seal breeding locations in the NWHI: French Frigate Shoals, Laysan Island, Lisianski Island, Pearl and Hermes Reef, and Kure Atoll. Researchers have spent the summer collecting all the data (animal id’s, births, deaths, and more) to help estimate the population and intervening where they can to help save seals (disentangling, providing medical attention, etc.). These researchers are our first line of attack for monk seal conservation efforts. But as the number of new births dwindle, food stores shrink, and the days grow shorter, it is time for our field teams to come home.

So we find ourselves pushing northwestward through calm seas and clear skies to collect or teammates. But our mission is more than just picking up our colleagues, we are here to save monk seals as well. Over the next 3 weeks we will be undertaking several activities to help monk seal recovery. We are currently transporting 2 seals that have been undergoing rehabilitation at the Ke Kai Ola monk seal hospital in Kona. After several months of fattening up, they are headed back home to the wild. We will also be on the lookout for young seals that could benefit from care at Ke Kai Ola as well (more on that in another blog post). We will be testing unmanned aerial systems (drones to many) to see how they can help us in our efforts to count and assess seals, detect marine debris, and determine the threat of sea level rise to these fragile remove islands. And there is so much more.

Over the next few weeks we will keep you updated on all of the adventures, rescues and new science happening aboard this modern day NOAA’s A.R.C.

Posted in From PIFSC Director's Office, Protected Species Division (PSD)

Marianas 2015 Summer Cetacean Surveys: Rota Delivers! (August 28 – September 3)

by Marie Hill, Andrea Bendlin, Adam Ü, and Allan Ligon

After two stormy weeks off Guam, we decided to go to Rota for a week to see what we might find there.  In the past, we have had good luck with sightings off Rota so our expectations were high.  We are happy to report that Rota not only lived up to, but exceeded our expectations this year!

Our first day off of Rota we encountered Blainville’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon densirostris) and a Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) and collected biopsy samples during each encounter.  We have seen Blainville’s beaked whales off of Rota before but this was the first time that we collected a tissue sample.  Last year we encountered a single adult male. This year’s sighting included a different adult male and three to four sub-adult/female individuals.


Male Blainville’s beaked whale encountered off Rota on August 28, 2015 (photo: Marie Hill).

The Bryde’s whale was another first for us.  We have known that they occur in the Mariana Archipelago from acoustic recordings on our Tinian HARP (High-frequency Acoustic Recording Package) and from shipboard surveys conducted in 2007 and this June, but we haven’t seen them during our small boat surveys that we have been conducting since 2010.  Two days after our first Bryde’s whale encounter we had another with a different individual and collected a second biopsy sample.  We then had a third encounter on Rota Bank as we transited down to Guam from Rota on September 3, 2015.


Bryde’s whale encountered off Rota on August 28, 2015 (photo: Adam Ü).

While working off Rota we also had multiple bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) encounters. During two encounters we had a number of individuals that we know from our photo-identification catalog. We were particularly excited to see one individual that we named “Changey” and have been tracking since 2012.  The name was given because this individual acquired an obvious new mark on its fin between 2012 and 2013 and was the first individual to do so in our bottlenose dolphin catalog.  “Changey” was first photographed by HDR off Saipan in March 2012.  In 2013, we photographed “Changey” off Guam on June 30 and then off Rota on July 9 and 10.  We didn’t see “Changey” last year so it was great to see him/her two days in a row this year on September 1 and 2.  We haven’t collected a biopsy sample from “Changey”, so his/her gender is undetermined.


“Changey” over the years. In 2013, “Changey” acquired new marks in the middle of the dorsal fin trailing edge. (Photos: Mark Deakos, Marie Hill, Adam Ü).

During the bottlenose dolphin encounter on September 2 we deployed a satellite tag on an individual that is also in our photo-identification catalog.  Our only other encounter with this individual was off of Saipan on July 17, 2013 during which we collected a biopsy sample. We therefore know that this is a male.


Male bottlenose dolphin satellite tagged off Rota on September 2, 2015 (Photo: Adam Ü).

The satellite tag is a Wildlife Computers SPLASH10 and will collect information on the location, as well as the diving statistics of this bottlenose dolphin.   Since we deployed the tag he has made two round-trips between Rota and Guam and was off Rota Bank on Monday September 07, 2015.  So far, his maximum dive depth has been 625 m.

Figure5-Bottlenose dolphin satellite tag track_Sept2-7

Track of a satellite tag deployed on a bottlenose dolphin off Rota. (September 2-7, 2015).

One really interesting thing about bottlenose dolphins in the Marianas is that most of the individuals from which we have collected biopsy samples have some Fraser’s dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei) genetic material. We have collected another eleven biopsy samples from bottlenose dolphins to investigate this further.  Nine of the samples came from an encounter with individuals that we have not seen before.  It will be exciting to see how they fit in to the Mariana bottlenose dolphin population.

All survey operations including satellite tagging, photo-id, and biopsy sampling are conducted under NMFS permit 15240. Funding was provided by the NOAA Fisheries and the Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet.


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