DILI, Timor-Leste — Handshakes followed an animated bilingual exchange in which people from two very different nations worked together on plans for upcoming field activities in Timor-Leste that are part of a 5-year partnership to build the capacity of the government of Timor-Leste to understand and monitor coastal and marine resources. The group at this meeting on Oct. 11 consisted of a team from the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), a representative of the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the staff of the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF). Lourenco Borges Fontes, Director General of the MAF, thanked the CRED team as a plan was made for MAF personnel to join CRED staff on a day trip in the field before the CRED team embarked on an 11-day live-aboard field mission to sites around the coastline of Timor-Leste. After several months of logistical preparation and planning, the CRED team was ready to begin CRED’s first large-scale field operation to provide technical assistance and capacity building in Timor-Leste.
Located in the southern reaches of the Coral Triangle, just north of Australia, Timor-Leste has highly productive coral reefs that are critically important to the food security and livelihoods of its people. This field mission is part of a 5-year partnership between the MAF, NOAA, and USAID to build capacity by providing (1) assistance in the establishment of baseline observations, (2) training to monitor the ecological and biodiversity effects of ocean acidification and climate change, and (3) technical assistance on how to assess, monitor, and use information to implement an ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM) in this young country. Timor-Leste became an independent state in 2002, and efforts there to establish local capacity for sustainable fisheries management for food security, livelihoods, and economic development are in their early stages.
On Oct. 16, the CRED team, consisting of Daniel Merritt, Noah Pomeroy, Oliver Vetter, and Max Sudnovsky, embarked on an 11-day mission aboard the 40-ft catamaran Cattitude to deploy instrumentation at nine monitoring sites in the coastal waters of Timor-Leste. These nine sites, spread around ~610 km (~330 nautical miles) of Timor-Leste’s coastline, were identified by MAF officials as important sites for investigations of marine resources and oceanographic conditions.
At these nine sites, the CRED team through Oct. 27 will deploy a suite of instruments, including autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) to assess the diversity of reef cryptobiota, calcification accretion units (CAUs) to investigate net rates of reef calcium carbonate, and subsurface temperature recorders (STRs) to collect data on long-term water temperatures. The team also may collect coral cores in various locations to asses past changes in calcification rates of mounding corals.
This mission in Timor-Leste follows a similar field operation conducted by CRED in Verde Island Passage, the Philippines, in March 2012. Both missions are part of CRED’s work in the Coral Triangle. Other CRED activities in the Coral Triangle so far have included a capacity building training workshop on EAFM 101 in Indonesia, and similar training workshops are planned to occur in Malaysia, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea in the coming year.
By Noah Pomeroy