$5 Million Investment Gives Vital Boost to Pacific Islands World Heritage Site in Kiribati

9/24/2013

Endowment for Phoenix Islands Protected Area Conservation Trust supports long-term success of the California-size, multi-use protected area that sustains Kiribati’s people and hosts some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs

Tarawa, Kiribati / Arlington, Virginia, USA – One of the most pristine, ambitious and globally-important protected areas in the world received a vital boost of financial support today, with the investment of $5 million toward an endowment to support its long term viability and management.

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) Conservation Trust announced the initial capitalization of the trust fund, which will provide ongoing support for Kiribati’s 408,250 square kilometer multiple-use marine protected area (MPA), the world’s largest and deepest UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The funds were received in two contributions of $2.5 million each from partners, the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kirr-i-bas) and nonprofit organization, Conservation International (CI) through its Global Conservation Fund (GCF). The release of these two gifts also marks CI and partners’ Commitment to Action through the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. CGI convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
Located about halfway between Fiji and Hawaii within the territorial waters of Kiribati, PIPA is a  large-scale, multiple-use zoned ocean and island protected area, which includes eight atolls, two submerged reef systems and numerous seamounts. Roughly the size of the state of California, PIPA supports a healthy and biodiverse marine ecosystem that is home to globally threatened species like sperm whales, Napoleon wrasse, hawksbill turtles, giant clams, and numerous species of seabirds, cetaceans, sharks and tunas. PIPA also includes a collection of unique coral communities on seamounts, large submerged volcanoes that typically rise 4,500 to 6,000 meters from the ocean floor.  Its terrestrial areas provide vital nesting grounds for seabirds and spawning grounds for fish, including highly valuable skipjack tuna.

PIPA is more than just a marine protected area. It is an investment the future of Kiribati. With PIPA we are investing in our economy, our children, our cultural heritage and on a more global scale, we are investing in preserving food security for the world,” said His Excellency Anote Tong, President of Kiribati. “This brings us a step closer in achieving our ultimate goal for PIPA: phasing-out commercial fishing over time.  In this way PIPA will act as an insurance policy for fishing effort more widely in Kiribati and the region.” 

The Republic of Kiribati, Conservation International and New England Aquarium developed the management plan for PIPA over several years of joint scientific research and discussions, with funding and technical assistance provided by CI’s Global Conservation Fund. The design allows for subsistence fishing by the caretaker community on the island of Kanton and sustainable development in designated zones. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area was formally declared in 2006 by the government of Kiribati, and legally established in 2008. In a significant validation of the area’s cultural and natural value, in 2010, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named PIPA a natural World Heritage site, describing it as a “superlative natural phenomenon of global importance.”

“The first time I dove in the Phoenix Islands, I felt like I was looking at the ocean from thousands of years ago,” said Dr. Greg Stone, Executive Vice President for The Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science and Oceans at Conservation International.  “The coral reefs and seamounts ecosystems found in these islands are as unique as the process that has been undertaken to protect them for the long term benefit of people in Kiribati and around the world.”
Stone added, “There is no ‘one-style-fits-all’ solution to implementing a marine protected area. It requires careful research, design, training for local managers, and investment of time and resources. We therefore charted the implementation of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in clear, intentional phases, which allow us to jointly consider the ecology, biodiversity, culture, economy and capacity of Kiribati’s people to successfully steward such a massive protected area. We all want it to succeed.”

The first iteration of the PIPA management plan, which began in 2010, is the first phase of PIPA’s implementation and is expected to be successfully implemented by its scheduled end date of December 2014. In this phase, which included the initial commitment from Kiribati, 3-percent of the protected area is closed off to all fishing (a ‘no-take’ zone) some 12,000 sq km; additional fishing restrictions around the islands cover a total of 52,000 square kilometers (12.5-percent of PIPA). This fully protects over 80% of the high priority habitats and key species identified within the protected area, such as shark nursery locations and seabird nesting sites. The second phase has the core objective of increasing the ‘no-take zone’ coverage by an additional 25% of the total area of PIPA. The management plan after 2014 will work towards increasing the level of protection.

“Capitalizing the PIPA Trust and growing the funds over time is as important to PIPA's conservation goals as is monitoring PIPA's protection,” said Bud Ris, President and Chief Executive Officer of the New England Aquarium. “We will continue to work on strengthening the endowment so it can provide a stable, long-term funding stream for management of PIPA. That will ensure that these islands and the surrounding ocean continue to provide vital ecosystem services to both local and global communities.”

“The establishment of the endowment is another exciting milestone in the evolution of preserving this critical natural resource of the Pacific,” said Jennifer Morris, Executive Vice President of Ecosystem Finance and Markets at Conservation International, which manages the Global Conservation Fund. “The people of Kiribati have graciously committed to conserve this treasure, and the endowment demonstrates the commitment of PIPA’s partners to the long-term success of this initiative.”


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Chorus of Support for PIPA

Dr. Teuea Toatu, Executive Director of the Phoenix Islands (PIPA) Conservation Trust:
“PIPA should not be viewed as just a sacrifice by the Government of Kiribati but as an investment for the long-term and sustained benefits of the present and future generations of Kiribati, especially in terms of ensuring sustainable food supply (tuna). There is so much at stake if we procrastinate for every day we defer action is a day too many, and will only increase costs in the future leading to even greater losses of benefits that PIPA can bring. This is a testimony to the PIPA partners’ genuine commitment and support for this globally important conservation project. This initial capitalization should have tremendous impact in leveraging other donors to invest in the PIPA Endowment.”

Dr. Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer, Founder of Mission Blue and Explorer in Residence at National Geographic:
“The growth of the endowment for the Phoenix Islands Protected Area Trust will ensure that this special ecosystem will eventually be 100% protected and as planned that the people of Kiribati will be financially sound.  President Tong and his government are making strides in ecosystem investment and habitat protection that no other leader of any nation its size, or in its economic position, has undertaken."
 
Aulani Wilhelm, Superintendent, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument & World Heritage Site:
"Congratulations to our sister-site on this milestone achievement," said 'Aulani Wilhelm, NOAA Superintendent for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and World Heritage Site in Hawaii. "Investments like these confirm the importance of and need for large-scale marine conservation and the contribution areas like PIPA make to the future wellness of the world's oceans."

Dr. Laurence P. Madin, Executive Vice President and Director of Research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute:
“As the Phoenix Islands Protected Area progresses toward its planned levels of protection, there is much for scientists to learn from this pristine coral ecosystem and its surrounding waters. The expanding protection of these vital habitats is essential for enabling WHOI and other scientists to continue to study the region.  The initial capitalization of the PIPA Trust endowment provides a great boost to the status of the area and critical momentum toward its final goal."
 
Dr. John Francis, Vice President for Research, Conservation and Exploration at National Geographic Society:
"The archipelago within the Phoenix Islands Protected Area is so remote that it has remained  one of the most unspoiled and unexplored parts of our planet. The research expedition, which we supported over a decade ago and put in motion the PIPA endeavor, taught us that the Phoenix Islands are a a microcosm of what the oceans looked like hundreds of years ago. There is much more to explore and learn in this part of the Pacific and there is still more conservation to be done to protect the natural riches for the people of Kiribati and the world."

 
Dr. David Obura, Founding Director of CORDIO:
"This is an exceptional milestone on a dream that has taken 13 years to grow and will undoubtedly keep growing. Who would have thought when we looked at a map at the turn of the millennium or first set foot on Kanton in 2000 and greeted the residents that the scale was tipping towards true investment in nature? This is a win for the sense of stewardship of the people of Kiribati, as well as their international partners, and we should all celebrate and emulate this partnership and its outcomes."
 
Brian Skerry, Photojournalist:
"When I traveled to the Phoenix Islands, I saw coral bleaching magnitudes worse than I have seen on any other reefs. Thanks to the protection offered by PIPA, the otherwise healthy ecosystem was helping the corals to recover with new growth rising from the ashes much like their namesake. The continued progress towards full protection will help even more and I look forward to exploring here again and seeing the fertile results of longer-term conservation."
 
Celine Cousteau, Founder and Executive Director, CauseCentric Productions
"Human impact on the oceans is felt far and wide and too many places like the Phoenix Islands are disappearing.  Large-scale Marine Protected Area work is a complex and time consuming undertaking but the results it yields for future health and sustainability are paramount.  The oceans and islands of PIPA support corals, sea turtles, reef fish, whales, sharks and tuna.  The coral system is one of the most pristine in the world.  One can imagine that this is what the oceans looked like 200 years ago.  The contribution of these funds to the PIPA trust brings us one step closer to the achievement of long-term success for this MPA."

Dr. Randi Rotjan, Coral Reef Scientist, New England Aquarium and PIPA Science Advisory Committee member:
"Phoenix Islands reefs are a natural laboratory for global change, and have demonstrated both fragility and rapid recovery potential. This milestone launching of the PIPA Trust endowment is critical for protecting PIPA from local degradation by providing long-term, sustainable financing for management. With a secure financial future, the commitment of Kiribati to sustainably manage the resources of PIPA as their 'gift to humanity' will certainly serve to foster the importance of PIPA as a reference site for other Pacific reefs.”
 
Photos  and Video Available for Media available upon request.
Learn more at:
            UNESCO World Heritage Site Listing
            The Phoenix Islands Protected Area
            Conservation International

 

For more information, contact:

Pacific Islands
Office of Te Beretitenti, Communication and PR Unit, Republic of Kiribati
Office: +686-21183/ Mobile: +686-66348/ E-mail: rimon@ob.gov.ki

Emmeline Johansen, Regional Communications Manager, Conservation International
Phone +64 4 277 793 401/ email ejohansen.conservation@gmail.com

United States
Kevin Connor, Media Manager, Conservation International
Office +1 703 341 2405/ mobile +1 571 232 0455/ email kconnor@conservation.org

Tony LaCasse, Media Relations Director, New England Aquarium
Office +1 617 973 5213/ email tlacasse@neaq.org


About Conservation International (CI) – Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature and its global biodiversity to promote the long-term well-being of people. Founded in 1987, CI is headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area. CI employs more than 800 staff in 29 countries on six continents and works with more than 1,000 partners around the world. For more information, please see www.conservation.org or visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Global Conservation Fund (GCF) – Established in 2001, Conservation International's GCF finances the creation, expansion and sustainable financing of protected areas for the long term benefit of people and biodiversity. In the Fund’s 12 years, it has invested $65 million in 76 priority locations in 26 countries around the world that provide critical natural capital, or ecosystem goods and services, vital for human survival. Its portfolio of trust funds supports the sustainable development of an area that is cumulatively over 80 million hectares, twice the size of Germany. Made possible by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, GCF provides financial and strategic assistance to enable local communities, nongovernmental organizations and governments to protect their biological riches. To learn more, visit: www.conservation.org/gcf.

About the New England Aquarium – Located on the Boston waterfront, the New England Aquarium is one of the most prominent and popular aquariums in the United States. Beyond its exhibit halls, the Aquarium is also a leading ocean conservation organization with research scientists working around the globe, biologists rescuing stranded marine animals in New England and staff consulting with the major seafood businesses to promote sustainable fisheries. For more information: www.neaq.org.

About the PIPA Trust – The Phoenix Islands Protected Area Conservation Trust (PIPA Trust) is a not-for-profit nongovernmental organization established under the laws of the Republic of Kiribati. Its primary objective is to provide long-term sustainable financing for the conservation of terrestrial and marine biodiversity in the Phoenix Islands group. For more information, visit: www.phoenixislands.org/trust.php.

About the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) – Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date CGI members have made more than 2,300 commitments, which are already improving the lives of more than 400 million people in over 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $73.5 billion.
CGI also convenes CGI America, a meeting focused on collaborative solutions to economic recovery in the United States, and CGIUniversity (CGI U), which brings together undergraduate and graduate students to address pressing challenges in their community or around the world. For more information, visit clintonglobalinitiative.org and follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative.