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Aquatic Ecosystems


The Pacific Islands are surrounded by the most biologically diverse seas on the planet, and also possess hundreds of freshwater streams and extensive wetlands. The goal of the Aquatic Ecosystem Conservation program is to promote the conservation of this rich aquatic biota and its many endemic species, to retain the integrity and resiliency of the habitats upon which these species depend, and to ensure that when developments which will disturb such ecosystems are necessary, that they are constructed in the least environmentally damaging fashion.

  • Conservation Planning Assistance

    Tumon coral

    Within the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Aquatic Ecosystem Conservation program falls under the broad umbrella of Conservation Planning Assistance, or CPA. The mission of CPA is to work collaboratively with state and federal agencies, the private sector, and other stakeholders to achieve development of infrastructure projects in ways that maximize the conservation of fish and wildlife resources, and their associated aquatic habitats.

    CPA involves staff in more than 80 field offices nationwide, including those of the Aquatic Ecosystem Conservation program at PIFWO, who act as the voice of the Service in regard to impact assessments, collaborative planning, and mitigation, seeking to promote sustainable development while minimizing impacts to trust resources under the authorities of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Rivers and Harbors Act, among others.

  • Where We Work

    Diving in Kwajalein

    The Aquatic Ecosystem Conservation program conducts qualitative and quantitative surveys of freshwater and marine resources throughout the U. S. Pacific islands, including Hawaii, the Marianas, American Samoa, and the U. S. Pacific remote islands such as Wake and Palmyra. The program also has a long-term involvement with aquatic resource conservation at Kwajalein Atoll, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), under the provisions of the Compact of Free Association, and undertakes other projects in the RMI, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau upon request of those nation’s governments, based on memoranda of agreement.

    See a list of the many places in which AEC is currently active 

  • Projects

    Navy landfill in Guam

    Projects undertaken by the Aquatic Ecosystem Conservation program range from small studies as local seawall improvements and stream bridge replacements, to large studies such as aquatic resource mapping of all commercial harbors throughout Hawaii, extensive shoreline surveys related to highway improvements in American Samoa, and marine resource inventories across the length and breadth of Kwajalein Atoll (the largest atoll in the world). All these studies are accomplished using standardized survey protocols, linked to state-of-the-art data analysis utilizing geographic information systems.

    See a list of projects that AEC has recently undertaken

  • Partnerships

    Tumon coral

    The core of the Aquatic Ecosystem Conservation program is partnerships with other state and federal agencies, and collegial, constructive coordination with project proponents from both the governmental and private sectors. In addition, AEC staff serve on many multi-agency commissions and task forces, bringing their expertise in aquatic ecosystems to management and policy discussions at the local, regional and national levels.

    See a list of some of the partnerships in which AEC is currently active

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