|Photo by PICRC|
From November 20-21, Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) conducted a 2-day workshop at PICRC’s Kedarm conference room, to discuss a potential plan to build capacity of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) management in Palau. This workshop aimed at highlighting and addressing the main management gaps and needs of each state with MPAs that are part of the Protected Areas Network (PAN).Partners involved in the workshop were PAN Office (PAN O), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Palau Community College (PCC), Bureau of Marine Resources (BMR), Palau Coral Reef Island Ecosystem (P-CoRIE), PAN Coordinators and State Conservation Officers. Eight of the 12 states that have PAN MPAs were present during the workshop. The states that sent representatives to the workshop included Airai, Hatohobei, Kayangel, Koror, Melekeok, Ngardmau, Ngiwal and Ngchesar. This workshop was funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
During the first day of the workshop, PAN coordinators and conservation officers discussed and addressed their gaps and needs in term of marine management. The major gaps and needs that were discussed can be categorized into the following: management and planning, reporting and communication, marine monitoring skills, equipment and materials, education and outreach and transport. The workshop assessed needs of the states, of the PAN coordinators and those needs at the level of the Conservation Officers. A matrix of these gaps and needs was made during the first day of the workshop. Once the needs of each state were well defined, the overlapping and most recurring needs were retained and listed to represent the best overall situation in Palau. For instance, an important need at the state level was poorly defined and enforced rules and regulations at PAN sites. At the PAN coordinators level, one of the major needs was the lack of a monitoring plan and protocol; while at the conservation officers’ level, a recurrent need was highlighted to be the lack of marine monitoring skills, especially field experience.
On the second day of the workshop, PICRC along with partner agencies, PANO, P-CoRIE, TNC, BMR and PCC met in the morning to discuss a possible program to meet these needs and build a strategic plan of capacity building for the next 3 to 5 years. Depending on the needs, different approaches were considered to address the different needs identified. The whole capacity building program will include workshops, trainings, meetings, retreats, classes at PCC and on-site-assistance over the next four years. In the afternoon, the governors were invited to discuss the plan that has been prepared and to provide feedback. Governors or their representatives from six states were able to participate (Ngaraard, Ngiwal, Kayangel, Airai, Melekeok, and Koror). Overall, the Governors were satisfied with what was presented but asked that the capacity building plan be presented at the next PAN Management Committee meeting so more state governors can hear about the plan and provide their feedback. The next steps are now to develop a more comprehensive strategy and develop the cost estimates and budgeting that such a program will require.
Part of PICRC mission is to participate in initiatives to positively impact conservation and management in Palau. Through the development of capacity building programs, PICRC along with partner agencies work toward improving the management of the Protected Areas Network, to better conserve and manage coral-reef resources for the generations to come.