WENO, Chuuk—On January 26th, 2022, His Excellency David W. Panuelo—President of the Federated States of Micronesia—joined the Honorable Alexander R. Narruhn, Governor of the State of Chuuk, in a signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Government of the FSM, the State of Chuuk, and Blue Prosperity Coalition, so as to declare their collective commitment to Blue Prosperity Micronesia. Ted Waitt, Founder & Chairman of the Waitt Institute, signed in absentia and on behalf of the Blue Prosperity Coalition. Also joining the ceremony were members of Chuuk State’s leadership, including the Honorable Lester Danny
Mersai, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honorable Arno Kony, President of the House of Senate, numerous Members of the Chuuk State Legislature across both Houses, as well as the Honorable Justin Fritz, Chair of the Chuuk State Mayor’s Association, and numerous Mayors of Chuuk’s Municipal Governments.
Citizens may recall that the FSM and Blue Prosperity Coalition signed an MOU in July 2019 to support the nation’s efforts to advance sustainable ocean use. The resulting program generated by that MOU is Blue Prosperity Micronesia, a five-year nation-wide initiative with the aim to protect 30% of the FSM’s waters, develop strategies for economic well-being, and strengthen existing fisheries management to support the sustainable growth of the FSM’s marine resources for current and future generations.
Blue Prosperity Micronesia remains one of the Panuelo-George administration’s top priorities. What the MOU signed between the FSM National Government, the Chuuk State Government, and Blue Prosperity Coalition represents is, firstly, an acknowledgement of Blue Prosperity Micronesia’s overarching goals and intentions; secondly, to clarify and confirm that the State of Chuuk has the authority to manage its marine environment zero to twelve nautical miles from shore, including authority related to economic activities, human use, fisheries, and protected areas; thirdly, a recognition that the State of Chuuk has committed to achieving the goals of the Micronesia Challenge (which seeks to protect and effectively manage 50% of coastal territory and 30% of terrestrial territory by 2030); fourthly, an agreement that broad consultation among stakeholders is essential, as such consultation would consider community-based conservation and management efforts, traditional knowledge, and practices of local communities with respect to sustainable and equitable conservation; and fifthly, to agree to support the July 2019 MOU between the FSM Government and Blue Prosperity Coalition, including to work in partnership to develop a comprehensive, legally-binding marine spatial plan for Chuuk’s coastal waters that uses best available information with a series of steps and expected timelines, and with technical and financial support from the Blue Prosperity Coalition. Blue Prosperity Micronesia seeks to work across all levels of government and, with this MOU, acknowledges that the work within Chuuk must support the Chuukese communities, while also strengthening the prosperity of the FSM as a while.
As a first step following the signing, the MOU partners will convene to develop a work plan for Blue Prosperity Micronesia in Chuuk that is expected to include a coastal marine spatial planning process, and broad community consultations in water science, policy development, and outreach.
“I am so glad you are here to witness the signing of this MOU,” Governor Narruhn said at the signing ceremony, “Because…we live for the ocean and die for the ocean. This is how important our ocean is for us, culturally, socially, and economically. As we say in Chuuk: our ocean, our life. Entering into an MOU for Blue Prosperity Micronesia will protect our ocean, and will strengthen the important partnership between Chuuk State and the National Government.”
“I know that protecting 30% of our ocean sounds bold and ambitious,” said Yolanda Joab-Mori, the Blue Prosperity Micronesia Coordinator, “But we need to be ambitious, and we need to be bold.”
“Blue Prosperity Micronesia can prove that sustainability and development can not only co-exist, but thrive for a just and prosperous future for all,” President Panuelo said. “Initiatives like Blue Prosperity Micronesia build our resilience to Climate Change, because Ocean Action is Climate Action.”
“Chuuk has already taken steps to secure their resources well into the future with the Micronesia Challenge and community-based management of the nearshore areas,” said the Honorable Elina Akinaga, Secretary of the FSM Department of Resources & Development, and on behalf of Ted Waitt, Chairman and Founder of the Waitt Institute, “Blue Prosperity Micronesia will build on these efforts.”
The signing of the MOU occurred on the margins of the 2nd Resources & Development Conference, with representatives from the States of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae, the FSM National Government, and members of the private sector and civil society. Citizens will appreciate the ambitious nature of this plan, and are strongly encouraged to make their voices heard throughout the process, as this is to be Chuuk’s plan.