Strategic Planning for Protected Area Capacity-building and Conservation in the Pacific

By: Mike Lameier (CRCP) and Kristine Bucchianeri (NMFS)

Takeaway: Strategic planning advances capacity building, conservation, and a sense of community across the Pacific.

The Pacific Islands Managed and Protected Area Community (PIMPAC) is a long-term capacity-building program and a community of managers collaborating to enhance protected area management in partnership with local communities in the Pacific. It was created in 2005 and provides capacity-building opportunities to community members and government and non-government staff from Hawaii, Guam, CNMI, American Samoa, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands.

(Left) a traditional round hut with thatched roof sitting on a stone base jutting out over a tropical ocean. (Right) shallow clear water with coral reefs in foreground and land and a small building in the background.
A traditional Yapese house used by community members to surveil the reef (left) and a coastal village and fringing coral reef on Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands (right). Photo credit: Mike Lameier

Strategic plans have always successfully guided PIMPAC's approach to capacity-building and maintained PIMPAC's sense of community among its members. In early February 2023, after an almost three-year hiatus of in-person meetings and capacity-building activities driven by COVID-19 travel restrictions, partners convened in Pohnpei to create PIMPAC's fifth strategic plan.

Activities kicked off with a team-building activity where participants were divided into teams tasked with translating the following Pohnpeian phrase

Kitail kak wia soahng koaros oh e pahn pweida ahpw koaros anahne sawas pene!
(We can accomplish anything successfully through collective effort!)

Each team's access to translation materials and knowledge varied to remind participants that PIMPAC partners' access to knowledge and resources varies across the region, reinforcing the importance of collaboration and support. The next day covered a review of the results of the Evaluation of PIMPAC, which demonstrated that PIMPAC capacity-building activities have contributed significantly to conservation efforts. This helped partners orient themselves with past accomplishments, gaps, and recommendations for improvements. Over the next few days, participants drafted the vision, goals, activities, and monitoring plan that includes success indicators. These plan components were then used to develop a Theory of Change.

An infographic with the words PIMPAC Theory of Change in the middle. In the upper left corner, a traditional Polynesian fish hook symbol sits above the words Our Vision. A dotted line with a smaller version of the fish hook as a boat connects each section of the infographic from our vision through to with our community members.
A theory of change is a way to visualize and describe how an organization can achieve its goals. This is PIMPAC's Theory of Change.
Two people holding a wooden sculpture of a traditional Polynesian fish hook smile at the camera. The base of the sculpture has the words Community Conservation Award engraved in it.
PIMPAC Co-coordinator Bertha Reyuw and Kristine Bucchianeri with the PIMPAC award that was presented to a local Pohnpian community. Photo credit: Meghan Gombos

The outputs of the PIMPAC strategic planning meeting included the following:

  • PIMPAC capacity-building activities will continue to advance regional and state and territorial-level conservation initiatives such as the Micronesia Challenge, Guam Green Growth, Protected Area Networks, and the Hawaii Sustainable Initiative, aligned with the UN Environment Programme's Convention on Biological Diversity targets and Sustainable Development Goals.
  • PIMPAC will emphasize the capacity for management effectiveness to support these goals and help ensure that networks of protected areas are effectively managed and able to achieve conservation and socio-economic results.

During the closing ceremony, the Pohnpei Local Marine Managed Area Network Executive Committee was awarded PIMPAC's Community Conservation Award. The award recognized the hard work of the Pohnpei communities who are actively partnering with state government agencies to manage and protect their marine resources and share their lessons with one another. Recent monitoring data demonstrated their efforts are making an impact by improving fish populations. The award came with a USD1,000 small grant from the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT) to support future cross-site visit activities. About the award winners, Willy Kostka, Executive Director of MCT, noted, "Conservation is not something that happens overnight. But with diligence and consistency, the Pohnpei LMMA Network has shown that hard work pays."

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