Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office
Pacific Region
 

Coastal Conservation Program

Photo of coral reef The goal of the Coastal Conservation Program (CCP) is to achieve conservation of significant aquatic, estuarine, and marine resources in the Pacific Islands. The CCP approach to accomplishment of this goal is through the integration of key FWS Fisheries and Habitat Conservation programs. Currently, the primary programs include Conservation Planning Assistance, Fisheries, and Environmental Quality. Within each of these areas, CCP biologists contribute the high degree of scientific knowledge and skill needed to achieve this conservation goal.
Diverse coral reef - Photo credit USFWS

CCP accomplishments would not be possible without significant coordination among a wide array of partner agencies, organizations, and the public. The cornerstone activities underlying the CCP approach to fish and wildlife conservation include planning, partnering, and responding.

Planning

The CCP provides conservation planning assistance to Federal and State agencies for high-priority infrastructure, development, and defense projects affecting coastal aquatic and marine resources. A list of Recommended Standard Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Fish and Wildlife was developed by the CCP to minimize project impacts to fish and wildlife, and the list has been formally adopted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a Regional Condition on all Clean Water Act section 404 Nationwide Permits issued by the Honolulu Engineer District. Through the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA), the primary CCP objective is to protect and conserve coral reef, estuary, stream, and wetland ecosystems by reducing project impacts and to enhance or restore these habitats by implementing effective compensatory mitigation.

A recent CCP focus has been increasing the effectiveness of compensatory mitigation for coral reefs as part of the Federal project planning process. The Pacific Islands Region Mitigation Working Group (PIRWG) was formed largely as a result of a CCP report to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (CRTF) on the status of coral reef compensatory mitigation in the Pacific. The CCP Coordinator is the Department of the Interior Pacific Region point of contact for the CRTF Steering Committee, which plans activities associated with implementation of Executive Order 13089 on Coral Reef Protection. In addition, the CCP participates in formal CRTF working groups on Coral Injury and Response, and Climate Change. CCP staff assists the Pacific Island members of the CRTF in the development and implementation of Local Action Strategies that address the primary threats to coral reefs, including Climate Change, Land-Based Pollution, Recreational Overuse, and Fisheries Management.

The CCP Coordinator is a Pacific Region member of the FWS Ocean and Coastal Team, which is tasked with planning the FWS contribution to the DOI role in implementing the U.S. Ocean Action Plan. The senior CCP marine ecologist serves as the Pacific Region Dive Officer overseeing the certification of FWS scientific scuba diving operations associated with biological surveys needed to assess impacts to fish and wildlife from planned projects, as well as from unplanned vessel groundings and contaminant spills. CCP divers with highly technical expertise in freshwater, estuarine, and marine biology, taxonomy, and survey methodology also conduct special species and habitat inventory and monitoring projects that benefit management planning for coastal resources under the control of the Department of Defense in the Pacific Islands.

Partnering

Partnering at a multitude of public and private levels is an inherent component of the activities conducted by the CCP in the Pacific Islands. Major emphasis is placed on maintaining strong interagency partnerships with the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and Department of Defense on aquatic and marine resource issues important to the State of Hawai‘i, Territory of American Samoa, Territory of Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands. When significant unavoidable impacts are anticipated from high-priority projects of national importance, a primary goal of the CCP is to achieve successful conservation outcomes for affected fish and wildlife resources in ways acceptable to all parties through consensus agreement negotiated through extensive partnering and collaboration

A close working relationship is maintained with the DOI Office of Insular Affairs to provide technical guidance on fish and wildlife issues to help deliver assistance to the Freely Associated Compact States of Micronesia. The CCP contributes significantly to implementation of Memoranda of Understanding between FWS and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Republic of Palau, and Federated States of Micronesia. A special partnership is maintained with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command to assist in development and implementation of environmental standards that apply the substantive protections of US environmental law to US activities in the RMI, with special focus on US activities at Kwajalein Atoll.

Several significant conservation outcomes have been achieved by the CCP largely through compensatory mitigation mandates provided by the FWCA, CWA, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Compact of Free Association Acts. Recent results include a commitment by the U.S. Navy for approximately $8M to reforest 500 acres of the degraded Cetti Bay Watershed in Guam for the Kilo Wharf Extension Project; establishment of the Ngeremeduu Conservation Area (25K acres) and the Ngardok Lake Nature Reserve (1.3K acres) in Palau for the DOI Palau Compact Road Project; and creation of the Enewetak Conservation Area (an entire lagoon islet and coral reef ecosystem) at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands for a high-priority national defense project.

Recently, the senior CCP freshwater ecologist has begun coordinating development of a National Fish Habitat Action Partnership in the State of Hawai‘i to assist in the restoration of high-priority stream, wetland, anchialine pond, and estuary habitats to increase populations of native aquatic organisms. The Hawai‘i Fish Habitat Partnership is comprised of a broad coalition of partners including resource agencies, nongovernmental organizations, university affiliates, and private partners, including representatives of Native Hawaiian groups and interests that own and manage large tracts of land throughout Hawai‘i. The National Fish Habitat Board recently designated "candidate" status to the partnership and recognized that the initial focus of the HFHP on the perennial streams and estuaries is appropriate and that as the HFHP matures, consideration should be given to expanding its scope to the extensive marine habitats around the Hawaiian Archipelago. The CCP is committed to successfully guiding the growth of this partnership.

Responding

The CCP responds to the need to maintain healthy fish and wildlife habitat in several ways. Contributions are made in the identification and prevention of harmful contaminant effects on fish and wildlife, restoration of resources degraded by contaminants, and reduction of the negative impact of contaminants on the environment.

CCP staff participates in responses to vessel groundings and oil spills that impact coral reefs, mangrove forests, estuaries, shoreline wetlands and other valuable coastal habitats by emphasizing early (contingency) planning prior to these events. Cooperation at the local, regional and national levels is carried out during unplanned impact events to minimize the injury to fish, wildlife, and sensitive habitats, and collaboration is accomplished among responsible parties and other natural resource trustees to seek compensation for injured natural resources. Photo of Parrotfish and coral reef
Parrotfish and coral reef - Photo credit USFWS

The CCP applies the expertise of FWS divers in responding to major groundings and oil spills. The CCP was instrumental in responding to a major grounding and oil spill at Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in American Samoa. Currently, the CCP is participating in Natural Resource Damage Assessments for a vessel grounding and 2 oil spills on the island of Oahu, and a vessel grounding at Pearl and Hermes Reef in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Participation by the CCP in response to a recent unauthorized land clearing event, which resulted in massive deposition of sediment into 3 streams and onto a large tract of coral reef on the island of Kauai, was pivotal in resolution of the case. Based on CCP recommendations, the decision was made to pursue restoration of fairly large segments of riffle pool complexes that were buried in all 3 streams. The goal was to restore viable migratory pathways for native Hawaiian stream fauna, which must spend a portion of their lives in the ocean for survival. The $5M settlement was one of the largest that has been applied to habitat restoration in the State of Hawai‘i.

For more information:

Coastal Conservation Program Leader
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Pacific Islands Office
300 Ala Moana Blvd, Room 3-122
Box 50088
Honolulu, HI 96850
(808) 792-9400
(808) 792-9581 fax

 

Last updated: September 20, 2012
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