Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)

The Nature Conservancy, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and seven U.S. coral reef jurisdictions completed a $13.5 million, 10-year partnership to support the effective management and protection of coral reefs. Here’s a peek at how that partnership translated to work on-the-ground and in-the-sea – and what that means for CNMI’s reefs.

Where We Work

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is comprised of 14 islands extending over 370 miles in the western Pacific. Coral reefs are an important part of CNMI’s cultural heritage; unfortunately, a growing population and increased development have exacerbated threats to coral reef ecosystems, leading to reduced coral health. These effects are most noticeable on the island of Saipan, where approximately 90 percent of CNMI’s population resides.

Our Approach

Partnership efforts focus on providing technical support and capacity building for local staff to conduct watershed planning and prioritization of coral reef management efforts; secure sustainable financing for marine protected areas (MPAs); increase effectiveness of monitoring efforts; engage youth in conservation; and support local NGO advisory group development. To amplify conservation momentum in the region and foster shared learning, the partnership also supports regional learning exchanges and activities conducted within the framework of the Micronesia Challenge, a commitment to conserve at least 30 percent of nearshore marine resources and 20 percent of terrestrial resources by 2020.

Our Accomplishments

Partnership efforts have directly benefited approximately 70 square miles of coral reef habitat, provided 5 sites with technical support and resulted in the training of at least 60 people.

  • Completed and formally adopted two Conservation Action Plans (CAPs). A collaborative, science-based approach was used to identify and preserve priority coral resources and measure these efforts at two sites (Talakaya Watershed and Garapan). Plan implementation has begun at both sites.
  • Supported the exploration of a sustainable financing mechanism to support conservation as part of the broader Micronesia Challenge for a regional Endowment. The endowment will provide a sustainable financing source that supports the preservation of the marine resources that are crucial to the survival of Pacific traditions, cultures and livelihoods (See Success Story).
  • Completed an inventory and review of social science work conducted in CNMI to inform the development of socioeconomic monitoring protocols and a plan which allows for a unified approach to socio-economic monitoring across CNMI.
  • Supported enhanced capacity of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) by providing five years of technical assistance through board training, strategic planning and the development of fundraising plans for local NGOs.
  • Completed a threat assessment for the Managaha Marine Conservation Area to determine priorities for conservation efforts.
  • Completed a social marketing campaign to reduce poaching in the Managaha Marine Conservation Area. The campaign increased knowledge sharing among community members about the historical, cultural and economic significance of the area to increase community support for fishing regulations.

Success Story: Fostering Future Coral Reef Conservationists

The Mariana Islands Nature Alliance (MINA), a non-profit organization which receives capacity building support from the Coral Reef Conservation Partnership, is fostering the next generation of conservationists at the Tanapag Middle School on the island of Saipan, CNMI.

Tanapag is a close-knit fishing community within proximity to the Managaha Marine Conservation Area (MMCA), an area often referred to as the “jewel of CNMI”. Prior to being made an MMCA, the area was historically fished by the Tanapag community, making their support of the MMCA key to its effectiveness. In 2012, under support from MINA, sixth-grade students at Tanapag Middle School began hosting community events, such as beach clean-ups, to show pride and concern for the islands’ marine resources. To formalize their efforts, students formed the Micronesia Challenge Club, an after-school club which focuses on conservation of CMNI’s natural resources.

“The club gets the children outside, into the beaches, forests and jungles for hands-on science and conservation learning”, said Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong, a former member of MINA who worked closely with the students.

The club garnered attention when students donated $1,000 of their club funds to the CNMI Micronesia Challenge Endowment Fund. The fund provides sustainable funding for the management of protected areas in CNMI. The students hoped their contribution would inspire further support for the endowment from the CNMI government and private sector.

Inspired by the Tanapag Middle School Club, another Micronesia Challenge Club was formed at Kagman High School, also on Saipan. The Kagman Club has held beach clean-ups and is fundraising for future club activities. Kodep said, “Now that the youth of the islands are involved, there’s much more conservation awareness throughout the entire community.”