The people and
perspectives of marine
and coastal citizen science:
diverse interests, needs,
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Nicole L. Crane et al.
Sustainable coral reef management
Citizen scientists have gathered data and informed lines of inquiry for the scientific
community for at least the last century ( Cohn, 2008 ; Silvertown, 2009 ; Miller-
Rushing et al., 2012 ), but acceptance and increasing application of this approach
by professional scientists have accelerated dramatically in the last 10 years ( Couvet
et al., 2008 ; Follett and Strezov, 2015 ). Museums such as the Field Museum in
1 the California Academy of Sciences,
2 and the Smithsonian Institution
have involved citizens in their scientific endeavors, including the use of photo-
graphs, notes, and even specimens. More recently, organizations such as the Oceanic
5 Reef Check,
6 and others have successfully involved citizen
scientists directly in data collection to support scientific endeavors.
Long before the term citizen science became well-known, there was a long his-
tory of professional, “Western,” or conventional scientists
7 working with indigenous
peoples, utilizing local knowledge to support conventional science, for example by
ethnobotanists to understand healing practices and uses for local plants (Heckler,
2009; Ugulu, 2011 ). This is also true in the marine sciences and fisheries manage-
ment (Johannes, 1981; Berkes et al., 2000 ; Drew, 2005 ; Thurstan et al., 2015 ). The
concept of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) has become more widely rec-
ognized and accepted by the scientific community, including the marine and coastal
scientific communities, particularly in instances where indigenous people are seek-
ing to reconnect with their traditional management ( Pitcher, 2001 ; Williams et al.,
2008 ; Kittinger et al., 2012 , 2015; Friedlander et al., 2014; Crane et al., 2017 ). But
an often less recognized relationship is that between indigenous people and profes-
sional scientists as true collaborators.
INDIGENOUS CITIZEN SCIENTISTS
TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE CORAL
REEF MANAGEMENT IN A
The One People One Reef program
Nicole L. Crane , John B. Rulmal Jr. , Peter A. Nelson ,
Michelle J. Paddack, and Giacomo Bernardi
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198 Nicole L. Crane et al.
In our experience, the recovery and re-application of TEK for management
and conservation, combined with citizen science, can be a powerful approach. It
has particular relevance to communities that are often marginalized economically,
socially, and governmentally. Combining citizen science with TEK offers an effec-
tive and meaningful way for conventional science to engage with these communities
and assist with implementing lasting and effective conservation and management
programs. These efforts, however, require a two-way exchange of knowledge to
develop research agendas and management plans for the best chance for success.
Despite increasing recognition of TEK as a valuable resource for conventional sci-
ence, and its relevance to conservation and management, indigenous people are
often asked for information but are not included in either the research agenda or
management planning. Not surprisingly, this incomplete form of collaboration can
lead to skepticism and even resentment by local communities ( Berkes et al., 2000 ;
Christie, 2004 ; see also Chapter 13 ).
While many global conservation and management strategies are producing good
results (e.g. Marine Protected Areas; Abelson et al., 2016 ; Chapter 7 ), and some
Marine Protected Areas are leading to social challenges and cultural clashes (Chris-
tie, 2004), locally driven approaches, especially in autonomously governed regions,
may be the most effective strategy ( McClanahan et al., 2006 ; Wamukota et al., 2012;
Crane et al., 2017). Involving local people directly in the entire spectrum of the
scientific-management process, from data collection to planning and implementa-
tion, not only empowers individuals and communities, but it also enhances local
capacity and reduces the need for external resources ( Drew, 2005 ; Hilborn, 2007 ;
Braschler, 2009; Kittinger et al., 2012 , 2015; Wamukota et al., 2012 ). Indigenous
people can benefit in significant ways from conventional science, especially during
this time of rapid environmental change where their familiar ecological context
may be shifting. Conventional science, similarly, is greatly enhanced by data col-
lected by local science teams (citizen scientists) who hold valuable TEK and can
help inform the science process, especially in regions that are hard to access on a
regular basis. ( Braschler, 2009 ; Bourgoin, et al., 2013 ; Friedlander et al., 2014; Crane
et al., 2017 ). Finally, if a shared goal of the professional science team and the local
communities is conservation and management, then local communities need to be
leading the efforts, and view them as endemic to their needs rather than an outside
idea, for the best chances of long-term success ( Christie, 2004 ; Berkes et al., 2006 ;
see also Chapter 13 ).
Collaborative approaches to conservation planning and program implementa-
tion are now the standard among many agencies and organizations facilitating eco-
system and resource protection and management ( Hilborn, 2007 ; Couvet et al.,
2008; Wendt and Starr, 2009 ; Wilson et al., 2010 ; Goring et al., 2014 ). Collabora-
tion can take many forms, however, and there has not yet been a standard applied
to the process of involving stakeholders ( Berkes et al., 2000 ; Couvet et al., 2008 ;
Dickinson et al., 2012 ). In addition, many conservation efforts are focused on the
“protection” and “conservation” of sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs. These
are words that have important connotations, and often have the effect of leaving out
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Sustainable coral reef management 199
the key stakeholders themselves – namely the people who rely on the areas being
conserved for their livelihoods, and their need to extract resources.
Indigenous people, despite their pivotal roles in linking knowledge with con-
temporary needs and economies, have not always been acknowledged for their
input. Professionally trained scientists and conservationists, rather than work-
ing with local people as key collaborators and data collectors, often attempt to
enlist the support of local people to implement plans the scientists have already
developed – not always a successful or sustainable approach ( Berkes et al., 2000 ;
Christie, 2004 ; Cinner et al., 2009 ; Wamukota et al., 2012 ; Chapter 13 ; see also
Chapter 3 for an example of a successful citizen science project that includes
indigenous communities). With the rapid onset of climate change and the associ-
ated perturbations to ecological systems, it is a critical time to develop authentic
collaborations and incorporate historical data to understand and manage marine
systems in a culturally and ecologically sustainable way ( Kittinger et al., 2012 ;
2015; Thurstan et al., 2015 ).
Here, we present the One People One Reef program, which operates in the
Federated States of Micronesia and is aimed at strengthening community capacity
to manage their marine resources using adaptive frameworks and input from both
conventional and local (citizen) science teams ( Figure 10.1 ).
Case study: One People One Reef
Authors Crane (Cabrillo College) and Nelson (H. T. Harvey & Associates) are pro-
fessional scientists, and partner with colleagues Giacomo Bernardi (University of
California, Santa Cruz), Michelle Paddack (Santa Barbara City College), and author
Rulmal (Ulithi Falalop Community Action Program) and his local science teams.
FIGURE 10.1 Clockwise from upper left: researcher Nicole Crane collecting benthic
data, a local catch, a young woman from the island of Ifaluk .
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200 Nicole L. Crane et al.
Together they comprise One People One Reef – a collaborative approach to reef
The One People One Reef program was initiated by the people of Falalop
Island, Ulithi Atoll, Federated States of Micronesia, and a team of scientists from
Santa Cruz, California, USA, and has now expanded to the communities of all four
inhabited islands of the atoll: Falalop, Asor, Mogmog, and Federai ( Figure 10.2 ). The
communities recognized that their subsistence fisheries were declining and some of
their reefs were degraded, causing concern. In 2009, our professional science team
was contacted to help address these declines. Scientists met with local chiefs, leaders,
and fishers to assess the scope of the problems. The professional science team asked
the Falalop community to identify the major problems, describe historical trends in
reef degradation and changes in resource management, fishing methods, and other
potentially contributory factors. Collectively, the professional science team and the
local community representatives began to understand the nature of the problem,
and recognized the need for a local science team to help collect data. The Falalop
community was to lead the development of a management plan, based on the sci-
ence produced by the local and professional science teams, and rooted in traditional
management frameworks – a true collaboration . The professional science team did
not present the plans, rather they worked with the local teams to support locally
derived plans. Thus, the One People One Reef program was born.
Regional geography and the geo-political context
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is an island nation of four states (Yap,
Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae) in the Western Pacific with autonomous governance by
individual island communities, and is a part of the US Compact of Free Associa-
tion. This agreement provides for US economic assistance, defense of the FSM, and
other benefits in exchange for operating rights in the FSM (and other agreements).
The geopolitical context is important as it recognizes autonomous governance –
built into the constitution. The autonomous nature of governance and traditional
land and ocean tenure rights make this a region particularly well-suited for locally
driven management and conservation. Decisions can be made quickly, and com-
munities can adopt unique approaches and take a leadership role, with professional
scientists taking a supportive role.
Yap State consists of 138 islands and atolls, 22 of which are populated, extend-
ing approximately 800 km (500 miles) eastward into the tropical western Pacific
Ocean ( Figure 10.2 ). Although the Yap outer islands encompass over 259,000 km
of ocean, the state consists of only 117 km
2 of land, much of which barely rises
above sea level (the main island of Yap is a “high” island). The 2010 census estimated
a population of 11,376 people in Yap State.
Although Yap State is a collection of islands, “outer islanders” (people from
islands other than the largest main islands of Yap proper) often have a strong sense
of cultural identity, and in many cases, they differ significantly from communities
on the main islands, including their language and leadership structure. Ulithi is the
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Sustainable coral reef management 201
largest atoll in the Yap outer islands, and by some records the fourth largest atoll in
the world ( Figure 10.2 ). Communities on Ulithi often serve as leaders for the outer
islands. If collaborative management can work here, it sets the stage for a manage-
ment framework that can extend across a vast area of understudied and critical coral
reef habitat in the Western Paciﬁ c.
Ulithi Atoll is approximately 161 km east of the main island of Yap. The lagoon
measures 36 × 24 km and encompasses over 550 km
2 (212 square miles), making
it one of the largest on Earth. Ulithi consists of 40 islets and four inhabited islands,
collectively making up only 4.5 km
2 of land, most barely more than a meter above
sea level ( Figure 10.2 ). The total population of Ulithi is about 1,000, depending on
the time of year (it has one of the two high schools in the outer islands, to which
youth come during the school year from the neighboring islands). The four inhab-
ited islands are Falalop (which has the high school and lies just outside the main
atoll), with a population of between 500–700 people; Mog Mog, the governance
and spiritual center of the outer islands, with a population of approximately 150;
Asor, with a population of approximately 70; and Federai to the southeast, with a
population of approximately 150.
Hofagie Laamle – One People One Reef: a collaboration
In the following project description, we refer to the professional science teams (of
which the co-authors Crane and Nelson are members), and to the local science
FIGURE 10.2 Case study location. Ulithi Atoll and associated islands are located in the
Western Paciﬁ c Ocean.
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202 Nicole L. Crane et al.
teams (of which co-author Rulmal is a member) to explain roles throughout the
project. Though co-author Rulmal is also a member of the local community, we
refer to the local community in the third person for clarity. Although referred to
separately for the purposes of clarification, the teams work collaboratively.
Hofagie Laamle (translated loosely to “unite this Atoll/group of islands connected
by reefs”) is the name the people of Ulithi gave to this program to emphasize the
importance of the reefs to their community as a whole. People of Ulithi depend
on the reefs, and the reefs depend on the people for stewardship. The goal of the
program is to build capacity within communities to manage their reefs through an
understanding of the changing ecology of the system, including both their own and
external impacts. With a better understanding of the system and drivers of decline,
communities can plan for modifications to fishing methods and other management
strategies, especially those derived from traditional practices. Local capacity to man-
age is enhanced by fostering collaborations between professional scientists and local
citizen scientists that combine traditional knowledge with modern science.
The One People One Reef collaborative has three main goals:
1 Collect sound fishery and environmental data to better understand the eco-
systems and to support management. The data are collected by professional
science teams and local science teams together.
2 Support the development of reef management plans that address ecological
issues, meet community needs, and are sensitive to traditional frameworks. An
important part of this goal is to collectively interpret and discuss the results and
analyses of the data, and how they can support planning.
3 Enhance sustainable and adaptive management planning throughout the outer
islands of Micronesia.
The program approach relies on a two-way exchange of knowledge. The profes-
sional science team needs information from the community to inform their research
approach, such as, what the main resource issues are, what approaches have been
tried, which are failing, what the major barriers are, past and current fishing prac-
tices, and what the community sees as some of the key ecological changes on their
reefs. This information helps to frame questions and develop science objectives.
The community also benefits from specialized knowledge, skills, and technology
from the professional science team to inform their management. For example, con-
nectivity between reefs, fish biomass, and benthic characteristics can help inform
management priorities. We facilitate knowledge transfer at community meetings,
informal gatherings, cultural exchanges, and interviews and focus groups with as
many different demographics as possible including leaders, men, women, elderly
people, youth, and fishermen. We use a combination of informal storytelling and
discussion, and more structured interview questions.
Data collection is a collaborative effort. The professional science teams col-
lect data from the reefs including fish diversity and abundance, fish biomass,
benthic composition, reef complexity, genetics, and other attributes, with a keen
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Sustainable coral reef management 203
appreciation for information requested specifically by the local people. We were
alerted, for example, to the presence of a “weedy” coral in Ulithi observed by local
people, and so began monitoring its distribution and abundance at their request.
This coral, a species of Montipora ( Crane et al., 2016 ) has begun to grow abundantly,
forming large areas of mono-specific coral coverage on an otherwise diverse reefs.
Local science teams are now collecting data on the spread of Montipora . In addition
to monitoring this Montipora sp., local science teams collect data on landed fish,
including species, length, sex, reproductive status, location where caught, and gear
used. They send these data to the professional science teams for analysis, and we
share results with the community. This allows the community to assess the impact
of certain gear, and the status of specific fisheries, among other things.
Our premise is that the management plans themselves and the implementation
of those plans will come from the community, and our teams of professional and
local scientists can facilitate this by providing information and advice as needed. We
analyze the ecological and fisheries data, and inform fishers and leaders about key
patterns we see that suggest overfishing, for example, or other human impacts such
as eutrophication. Together we discuss these needs with the community leaders, and
support the development of an effective management plan. We note that chiefs and
community leaders often identify traditional methods as the best means to address
management concerns, and incorporate these where possible.
The scientists: you train us, we train you
Our collaborative team of scientists (hereafter referred to as the One People One
Reef Science Team) includes a core team of four to six professionally trained sci-
entists and about eight locally trained scientists from Ulithi Atoll ( Figure 10.3 ).
Our US-based scientists, usually with undergraduate and graduate students, initially
survey the reefs and provide access to technologies such as genetic tools and under-
water video equipment, as well as statistical analyses to determine patterns in the
data. These data, and the emerging results, are shared with the local science teams
and local leaders.
On Ulithi, a local project coordinator helps assemble the local science teams,
and meets regularly with them. They discuss issues specific to their island, and com-
mon issues among the islands. The professional science team trains the local science
teams in several data collection techniques (see later), and data are transferred to one
island where they are entered into a database. That database is transported to the
main Yap island, and uploaded to a shared drive where our professional science team
can analyze it and send results back to the community. We also discuss the findings
directly with the community when we are on-site.
The local science teams consist of two to four individuals per community,
selected by the communities. These individuals are introduced as the “local scien-
tists,” and take on the important role of bridging science with management at the
local level. They are self-motivated, hard-working, and respected by their commu-
nities. They work closely with fishers (and are often fishers themselves) to collect
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204 Nicole L. Crane et al.
data on landed fish. Their challenging job includes recording the catches on formal
data sheets, identifying and measuring fish, determining sex and reproductive con-
dition, and recording details of the fishing effort (e.g. habitat, gear, conditions) – all
before the fishers become anxious to get their catch distributed and cooked (there
is limited refrigeration). The fishers are also sometimes reluctant to talk about fish-
ing location and even gear in some cases (necessary data), and the local scientists
need to find ways to build trust. The most important drivers of success for this
part of the citizen science are mutual trust, buy-in, and leadership on the part of
the fishermen (see Chapter 13 on the importance of communication and building
trust). The local science teams are responsible for this, and without that communi-
cation and collaboration at the local level, these data would not be available. To date,
the people, leaders, and fishers of Ulithi Atoll have developed the largest database of
landed fish in the entire region – over 90,000 fish, as of January 2017.
This model of a two-way exchange of information has been transformative to
the professional scientists and to the local communities. We have been able to see
the critical role that cultural changes and social patterns have on resources, and
how an understanding of that can inform the scientific questions we ask. On a
local level, One People One Reef has facilitated a change in social dynamics, and a
stronger, more informed connection to the ecological systems that have sustained
these communities for centuries, and probably millennia.
FIGURE 10.3 Clockwise from top left: One People One Reef local scientists (with
Nicole Crane), “professional” science team, scientist Giacomo Bernardi
working with fishermen and local teams to sort a catch, local scientist
collecting data .
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Sustainable coral reef management 205
Data: telling a story
Because the local communities’ main concerns were declines in the size and avail-
ability of fish, and because information from landed fish can elucidate the impacts
of fishing and inform future management directions, we initiated a dialog with the
community on the current status of their fisheries, fishing methods, how methods
differed from the recent past, and details about fish processing, storage, and distri-
bution. We specifically sought data needed to inform local management and to
compare Ulithi fisheries to other regional and national databases.
We compiled data from interviews, semi-structured interviews, and focus group
meetings, and analyzed them using a coded grounded theory approach for patterns
( Corbin and Strauss, 1990 ), as well as analysis methods similar to those used by
Huntington and Cinner ( Cinner et al., 2009 ; Huntington, 1998 ; Huntington, 2000).
We c o de d t h e s e i n t er v i e w s an d f o c u s g r o u p c o m m e nt s t o i d e nt i f y t he m a i n i s su e s
and themes that the communities identified as most important with respect to coral
reef management, and found that concerns about management, community issues,
loss of tradition, and resource depletion were most frequently cited ( Figure 10.4 ).
FIGURE 10.4 Priorities and concerns related to local coral reefs in Ulithi Atoll’s four
communities, determined by frequency of references in interviews and
Note: Management theme included current types of fishing utilized, resource depletion, and management
problems. Community theme included youth engagement, education about the reef and management,
leadership problems, and health. Cultural/traditions theme included historical fishing, historical manage-
ment, community taboos, and changes in traditions. Ecosystem theme included reef changes, toxicity in
fish, erosion, pollution on reefs, new corals, and algal abundance.
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206 Nicole L. Crane et al.
We used these priorities identified by the communities to develop ideas and
questions to investigate further. For example, within “types of fishing,” under the
management theme, we could identify the primary types of current versus historical
fishing methods. Fewer fishing methods are in common use currently ( Table 10.1 ),
likely resulting in fewer trophic guilds being caught, which we believe is having
an impact on the reefs (see later and Crane et al., 2017 ). Local leaders and fishers
have incorporated this information into management plans, some of which include
restricting or banning night spearfishing (which targets parrotfish), and shallow cast
nets that also target herbivorous fish, primarily surgeonfish ( Figure 10.4 ).
We also worked with local families to implement a seafood consumption cal-
endar in 2015. Local science teams went to households in the community and
explained to each family how to complete the calendars with information on
which meals included seafood for each day, the source of that seafood (e.g. reef
fish caught by spear), and how many fish were shared. These data enabled us to
tie fisheries data to consumption data, allowing us to better understand patterns
in food and fishing preference, and how they could contribute to changes on the
reefs. For example, the island of Mog Mog has some of the most degraded reefs, and
they are among the reefs with the lowest biomass of fish (Crane et al., 2017). Fami-
lies on Mog Mog tracked their seafood consumption for one month in July 2015
TABLE 10.1 Fishing methods. Note that fish traps are being “revived” and some communities
are starting to use them again today.
Fishing Method Historical Use (pre-WW2) Current Use
Fish traps on the sand X
Fish traps on drift logs X
Fish traps on reefs X * limited
Trolling with hand and line and lure X X
Flying fish – long line with coconut buoy X
Bottom fishing (hook and line) X X
Hook and line (reef) X X
Kite fishing X
Pole or hand line (from shore) X X
Pole spear (day) X
Torch fishing for the flying fish – open water X
Torch fishing – reef flat X
Speargun/Hawaiian sling X
Throw net X
Community net X X
Fish drive on the reef flat X X
Reef net X X
Reef gleaning X X
Purse seiners (occasional commercial
fishermen, not from FSM)
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Sustainable coral reef management 207
(approximately 85% of the island inhabitants participated). Fifty-two percent of
all their meals consisted of fresh seafood, with the remaining meals either consist-
ing of no meat or canned fish. Of the fresh fish, 95% were from nearby reefs. This
compares with Falalop, which is outside the Atoll, and had comparatively higher
biomass of fish on their reefs ( Crane et al., 2017 ). Falalop (with approximately 30%
of inhabitants participating in the seafood consumption study) reported 53% of
the meals with fresh seafood, and the remaining meals consisting of canned fish,
canned meat, and no meat (Falalop has the only airport on the Atoll and residents
have access to more imported meats). Seventy-six percent of their fresh fish came
from reefs while 24% were caught in the open water, including the use of a local
FAD (fish attracting device). The people in each community have used these data
to manage their reefs differently: Mog Mog has limited or restricted some types of
fishing so as not to target key fish on degraded reefs, while Falalop has closed some
reefs to fishing (since they can rely on the pelagic fishes more) to recover local reefs
through rotating closures.
The inconsistencies in fish naming poses one of our greatest challenges with
the data on landed and consumed fish. In Ulithian, there are often several names
for the same fish species, depending on color phase, sex, size, and so forth. This
allows fishers to distinguish between phases in life history that help them better
understand who should eat it (certain fish are set aside for individuals of specific
status), what time of year it is best caught, and so forth. For professional scientists
accustomed to using a single taxonomically based scientific name for a species and
who do not speak the local language, this represents a challenge. In addition, each
island can have a different naming system. So, one of the first things we did was
match our scientific names with local names, using books, pictures, names, and a
wide representation of fishers. This continues to be a challenge today. A local sci-
entist, Mario Dohmai, is developing a translation document with local fish names,
scientific names, and pictures to document them. This document will be critical
for making the link between local knowledge and conventional science moving
forward. We are also currently developing a DNA barcoding library to positively
identify fish associated with local names and corresponding photographs.
To ensure high data quality, the local project coordinator works with the local
science teams to go over the data and any challenges they have encountered. The
local scientist responsible for data entry goes through each record and flags any
inconsistencies so s/he can check with the individual data collector or fisher.
Finally, the professional science team in the United States checks the database, notes
inconsistencies, and seeks clarification from the local teams and fishers. This pro-
cess can be lengthy, and can delay analysis, but it is critical to making sure we have
confidence in the data and the story they tell. When data are thoroughly analyzed,
they are a powerful indicator of what is happening on the reef and can help the
communities better understand the impact of certain fishing methods, which fish
are being caught undersized or close to maturity, and which fish are spawning at
what times of the year, among other patterns. One example of data being collected
are the main types of fish (names in Ulithian) caught with different fishing methods
( Figure 10.5 ). These data can be used to assess impact on trophic guilds.
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208 Nicole L. Crane et al.
Landings data (from 2014–2015) showed that spearfishing accounted for almost
50% of the total recorded catch from Ulithi, and 61% of the catch was composed of
a few species of herbivorous fish: surgeonfish including Ctenochaetus striatus, Acan-
thurus lineatus, Naso lituratus, Acanthurus olivaceus , parrotfish including Chlorurus spilu-
rus and chub ( Kyphosus cinerascens ). The second most common method (just under
40% of landings) was hook and line, which targets primarily higher trophic level
fish (predators) such as emperors, grouper and snapper ( Figure 10.5 ). Cast nets again
target herbivorous Acanthurus triostegus , especially on Mog Mog island.
These data show that large numbers of herbivorous fish were caught, especially
by speargun. Fishermen were particularly targeting large male parrotfish (often at
night). This was likely having an impact on the reproductive capacity of the popula-
tion (since parrotfish are sequential hermaphrodites – and the larger, more colorful
ones are mostly male). In addition, the depletion of herbivorous fish, which have
a role in keeping algae from dominating coral reefs could have an impact on coral
recruitment and survivorship of corals ( Dulvy et al., 2004 ; Graham et al., 2006 ;
Heenan and Williams, 2013 ; Crane et al., 2017). By sharing these ecological stories
and interpreting data with community leaders, those managers and leaders have
reported that they better understand the impacts of their fishing, and the connec-
tion between fishing and stressed reefs (such as the impacts of the removal of too
many herbivorous fishes). They have utilized these data in their management, which
FIGURE 10.5 The most commonly reported fish (Ulithian names) from three gear types
Note that Rogrog and Taptor are emperors, Bulgalai , Mor , Felang . Morfach and Golach are acanthurids
(surgeonfish). Speargun and castnet are therefore mostly targeting herbivorous fishes.
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Sustainable coral reef management 209
includes gear restrictions to minimize impacts on herbivorous fishes, utilizing more
hook and line to take pressure off the herbivorous guild, and rotating closures in
some areas. Our professional science team was also able to better understand poten-
tial drivers of reef change using these data ( Crane et al., 2017 ).
The One People One Reef project has resulted in substantial local change to the
management of fisheries and reef resources. Management includes areas closed to
fishing, bans on the take of some fish, phasing out the use of gillnets and some cast
nets, and bans on night spearfishing for parrotfish. Falalop, Asor, Mogmog, and Fed-
erai communities have each closed portions of the reef under their respective juris-
dictions. While this is not a new practice, it is being revisited and re-implemented
across the atoll. More than half of the island of Falalop ( Figure 10.6 , marked in
upper part of photo) has been temporarily closed to fishing. The ban on gillnets was
initiated in 2013 and is in effect across much of the atoll. Some of the night spear-
fishing targeting parrotfish – especially large terminal males, asleep in the reef – was
disallowed first in Falalop, then Asor, followed by Mogmog and finally, in 2015,
Federai. Mog Mog restricts cast nets and limits spearfishing. All four islands of Ulithi
Atoll have now developed or strengthened management plans. The management
plans are adaptive, and change in response to a variety of factors, including natural
disaster, celebrations, and decisions by community leaders.
Fishing restrictions come at a cost, such as not being able to access needed
protein, yet the communities report a general acceptance and recognition that the
changes will recover fish populations and ensure long-term food security. Unsolic-
ited reports from the community of Falalop claim rapid, positive effects from their
management, including (per interviews) species they have not seen in many years,
increased abundance, and spillover effects into the fished areas. We interpret these
reports and the communities’ acceptance as evidence of substantial conservation
success. Nonetheless, it will only be through the data, and especially the landings
data collected by local scientists, that we – the professional science team and the
communities – will be able to determine if these management measures have had
the desired effect. We attribute this success in part to the autonomous nature of
governance and the ability of communities to make rapid decisions, and in part
to the collaborative science approach that relies on training local scientists and the
partnership between these communities and professional scientists. We are currently
analyzing data to determine the effects of management on biomass of fishes on
Being a part of One People One Reef:
from the local perspective
Like anywhere in the world, trust and credibility are key to a successful partner-
ship (see Chapter 13 ), and the outer islands of Yap are no exception. Bringing
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210 Nicole L. Crane et al.
FIGURE 10.6 Marine protected area designated by the Falalop community in fall 2012.
The area marked in the upper part of the photo is a no-fishing zone
(except for shore fishing and community fishing), and the area marked in
the lower part of the photo restricts some fishing, while allowing some
professional science teams into these communities may be met with mistrust and
opposition; clear goals, consistent with local needs and interests, and a real partner-
ship likely offer the best way towards a successful long-term effort. Recognition of
the body of traditional knowledge and its relevance to conservation validates the
important role that local communities play in these efforts. Without that recogni-
tion, however, local knowledge may not be readily shared unless the use and value
of that knowledge is understood. For example, people may be reluctant to share
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Sustainable coral reef management 211
information with professional teams about reefs, management, jurisdiction, and tra-
ditions because they question the value of sharing, and may not fully trust what will
be done with the information.
Obtaining accurate local information and data from local participants depends
not only on how it is collected, but also who is asking for it, and how the commu-
nity is approached. In small, tight-knit communities like those of the outer islands,
people are clearly capable of working together to achieve common goals effectively,
but may be reluctant to expend energy on an endeavor whose outcome might have
little apparent local benefit. It is critical that the outcomes be clear, and that they be
articulated by the communities themselves. “People will often hear what you have
to say, but more importantly they will remember and respect what you do ” (John
The One People One Reef professional science team came to the outer islands
by invitation, and listened to what the people had to say. We were clear from the
beginning that management would be difficult, that it would depend on the active
participation of local science teams, and that plan development and implementa-
tion were up to the local community. We provided modern scientific knowledge
and data analyses to help outer islanders understand the nature and extent of the
problems, and made ourselves available for questions. We shared all the data col-
lected, returned regularly, and worked closely with the local people. This helped
build trust, and most importantly empowered communities on Ulithi to be leaders
in management. These reefs are their reefs. Citizen scientists in this context need to
be more than data collectors; they need to be co-leaders in the program, helping
to determine goals and objectives (e.g. co-created projects [Shirk et al., 2012] or
extreme citizen science [Haklay, 2013]).
Navigating local social networks can be difficult, and “outside” teams are best
served by being open, honest, and transparent. Decisions about local science team
composition and who should be involved are best left up to a process decided
by the community leaders. There are examples of conservation and management
projects that come into a community and suggest teams (an “outreach and educa-
tion” committee, an “enforcement” committee, etc.). These constructs can lead to
tensions in communities. Governance and oversight, transfer of knowledge, and
even training programs should be led by local leaders who understand social and
Building capacity for future citizen science-based management
In addition to the management and conservation successes, there have been signifi-
cant positive ancillary benefits for the Ulithi communities from the One People
One Reef program. The effort to discuss management among the islands (an issue
they all have in common) has led to increased dialog among leaders, and a revival
of open communication channels. During this time of rapid environmental and
cultural change, improved communication is critical to maintain consistent policies
and to make the most effective use of a growing database to refine management and
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212 Nicole L. Crane et al.
conservation. Although the exact management plans are difficult to document, all
four inhabited islands of the atoll now have established policies in place – a testa-
ment to their dedication. In theory, a reef manager or owner may choose to close
(or not) an area or parts of an area for whatever reason they choose, but the reality
is that they need community support. Scientific data gathered by the local science
teams since 2012 have helped local leaders re-establish their roles and responsi-
bilities. There has been a renewed interest in traditions and cultural history around
fishing and management. The community is coming together around the conserva-
tion and improved management of a critically important ecosystem, and a shared
understanding of its interconnectivity.
Another spin-off, articulated by many in the community, is the interest shown
by the youth, many of whom have become disconnected from their communities.
Some of the youth have expressed interest in reconnecting with traditional ways
and better understanding how these traditions fit with the modern world. There
is a growing interest among the youth around marine work, conservation, and the
merging of science and tradition. The One People One Reef program involved
youth from all four islands in 2015, 2016, and 2017, with strong community sup-
port. Because people from all the islands are measuring fish for a common database,
they are talking about and remembering traditional names – bringing them back.
Traditional boundaries and fishing jurisdictions, which are often neglected by the
youth, are being talked about and enforced again.
Youth are motivated by seeing local leadership with the program, and particu-
larly the active participation of their peers. This experience encourages them to
come back and do more in their own communities. In one youth’s words, “We are
not doomed to destruction after all.”
Reviving and understanding traditional practices
One People One Reef is leading to a rediscovery of traditions, and understanding
how modern science can complement traditional practices. It is providing a venue
to talk about these traditions and management.
• Mol igil bong : The first fish caught. Fishing rights belong to certain clans. They
can open and close a fishing area. Mol igil bong is when someone from the clan
(manager or owner) fishes, gets a good first catch of the season, and decides to
open the area to fishing by the rest of his clan. When someone from outside of
that clan is granted permission to fish there, they practice Fa’ad elbong (“string
from the ibong ”) – two fish strung with bellies together are given to the clan
that owns the area (an elder of the clan). This practice had become increas-
ingly rare, but our interviews indicate a resurgence, apparently stimulated by
the communities’ increased involvement in data collection and management
decisions. The practice ensures tenure over fishing grounds.
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Sustainable coral reef management 213
• People are paying renewed attention to where their fish are caught. “We used
to know this, [but] don’t so much anymore. We are beginning to talk about it
more” (Fisherman). Community members said that some elders could identify
the source reef for emperors ( rogrog ), based on their coloration. This used to
help reef owners know where people were fishing, and served as a check to
ensure that fishers were not fishing in a closed area.
• Local scientists measuring others’ fish was not welcomed initially. Now it is
acceptable. Historically, catches were checked by chiefs as the canoes came to
shore. That practice was largely lost, but people are paying attention now that the
local science teams are checking – similar in many ways to the traditional practice.
• Certain fish species were reserved for chiefs. Larger grouper, for example, were
taboo for others. Men eat certain fish away from the main island – in the boat,
on an island, or at beach canoe house – such as barracuda and groupers. These
taboos provide an additional means of conservation, as well as protecting the
greater community from potential toxins such as ciguatera.
• Turtle harvesting seasons. Historically, people didn’t harvest turtles in the
water (they do sometimes now). They used to take all turtles to Mog Mog for
approval and blessing before slaughtering and distributing. This limits the take
as it requires a long trip to the Island. People are talking about this again, and
why it is they used to do those things (it was management !).
Some reasons the One People One Reef program has met with great local support
and participation in the Yap outer islands, and specifically on Ulithi Atoll, include:
• The program recognizes the importance and sensitivity of the local commu-
nity perspective and needs first, before the professional science team’s goals.
• Reports (including scientific results) are written, presented, and discussed in a
way that local people can understand them and apply the results to their man-
• Communities are respected. One People One Reef makes locals true partners
in the conservation effort.
• T h e r e a r e n o d o c u m e n t s , a g r e e m e n t s , o r c o n t r a c t s , s u c h a s c o m m i t m e n t s t o n o -
take reserves or spatial closures required by the professional scientists. The com-
munity decides what it wants to contribute in terms of written commitments.
• The professional science team follows through on commitments, maintains
effective communications with the community (to the extent that technology
allows), and provides analytical support and advice on request.
Ulithi has been the trendsetter for the outer island chain in the recent past (since
the building of landing strip in World War II, and the establishment of the high
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214 Nicole L. Crane et al.
school in 1964) and these trends often make their way to the rest of the neigh-
boring (outer) island chain. The One People One Reef collaborative program is a
model that is beginning to expand through these islands, with the initial leadership
of Ulithi. Its success will depend on the collaboration, mutual understanding, and
commitment of all involved.
To me, we have a moral responsibility here to set positive trends for the rest
of our neighbors. I have seen divisions arise between islands, and it is time to
unify around the management of a system that unites us all. Hofagie Laamle
( One People One Reef ).
(John Rulmal, Jr.)
The combination of shared knowledge to understand and manage a complex
human-natural coupled system leads to planning that is woven into the cultural
and governance structure of the communities. That integration is the framework
for sustainable management and conservation, led by local communities, and sup-
ported, rather than driven, by conventional science. This has the greatest potential
for success in the long-term.
W e n e e d t o h a v e a c o m m o n u n d e r s t a n d i n g a r o u n d m a n a g e m e n t , s o t h a t e v e r y -
one agrees and supports it. Understanding the old ways, and the impacts of the
new ways, can help us protect the ocean for our children, and their children.
(Isaac “Ike” Chief, Asor Island, Ulithi Atoll)
1 www.fieldmuseum.org/science/citizen-science .
2 www.calacademy.org/citizen-science .
3 www.si.edu/volunteer/citizenscience .
4 www.oceanicsociety.org/ .
5 www.earthwatch.org/ .
6 www.reefcheck.org .
7 We use the term “professional scientist” throughout this chapter to refer to university-
trained people who practice science as their full-time professional job, and “conventional
science” to refer to ways of generating knowledge using the classic Newtonian “scientific
method” (Ballard and Huntsinger, 2006; Berkes and Turnaer, 2006). We prefer these terms
instead of “Western science and scientists” because there are many ways of knowing in
the “Western world,” and professional scientists conduct conventional science globally
beyond the Western world.
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