Project Report:
Conservation Finance Mechanism for Coral Reef Preservation in Palau and the Pacific
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


OneReef is putting an entrepreneurial solution in place that fosters climate change adaptation in places where immediate coral reef stressors can be brought under control. OneReef works with Pacific Islanders who own coral reefs. The project objective is to establish an endowment and a conservation investment offering which would fund operations long-term.


Brett Howell joined OneReef as the Chief of International Operations (contract) in late September 2013 thanks to funding provided by the Alex C. Walker Foundation and match support from the Anthropocene Institute. In this role, Brett is partnering with OneReef’s CEO, Christopher LaFranchi, to test market-based conservation in Micronesia where communities have property rights over coral reefs. Major objectives from July - September 2014 include finalizing a co-financing arrangement for reef protection in Palau; demonstrating the success at OneReef’s four Marine Conservation Agreement (MCA) sites in Micronesia, including site enforcement capability; and continuing to build organizational and fundraising capacity for OneReef.

Organizational activities to date have included:
• October 2013: Working with OneReef’s MCA site Helen Reef and Palau International Coral Reef Center, OneReef completed a follow-up scientific baseline to compare results against the previous data collected in 2007. Recovery rates of corals and the fish populations at Helen Reef suggest that the reef is healthy and resilient to thermal stress events. Fish densities are the highest measured in any of Palau’s and Micronesia’s marine protected areas.
• November 2013: Chris and Brett traveled to Palau and Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to meet with OneReef’s Micronesia staff, key government and conservation finance decision makers, and community reef owners who have expressed interest in being future MCA sites. We advanced our efforts to develop a public/private partnership with the Republic of Palau by working to get a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Minister of Environment. This MOU would provide co-financing of our MCAs using tourism user fees collected by Palau. The Attorney General of Palau reviewed the document and we are now seeking the support of Palau’s Protected Area Network Board of Directors.
• December 2013: OneReef was selected by the Lindblad-National Geographic Fund for the Ocean to support MCA development work at Ant Atoll near Pohnpei, FSM.
• January 2014: Helen Reef, one of OneReef’s MCA sites, signed an endowment agreement with the Micronesia Conservation Trust creating a community-based reserve and endowment fund, a cornerstone in a sustainable finance system. This is a replicable model for providing sustainable cash reserves for reef communities.
• March 2014: Follow-up site visit to Palau and Yap State, FSM that included the Alex C. Walker Foundation and Anthropocene Institute.
• June – July 2014: Scientific and engineering data gathering in Ant Atoll, FSM. Three of OneReef’s core staff were accompanied by two scientists from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, an engineer from California Polytechnic State University, an intern from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and two high school volunteers. Working with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography under a new partnership, we will create a go-anywhere cost-effective system for monitoring the health of reefs that can be replicated at our other MCA sites. Our engineer is designing a prototype surveillance and enforcement ranger station on Ant Atoll that will serve as a template for other MCA sites. We target a “station in a box” that can be delivered to a remote site via shipping container, unloaded, and easily assembled without need for complicated tools or construction skills. The structure will need to resist “king” tides, gradual sea level rise, and typhoon force winds and accommodate conservation rangers and itinerant staff (e.g., visiting scientists). It will incorporate one or several proven surveillance technologies, such as radar and/or surveillance camera systems, night vision binoculars, etc.

Operations activities to date have included:
• Developing systems in preparation for tax-exempt IRS status.
• Creating financial reports, filing first tax returns, and integrating disparate global records.
• Implementing budget savings plan and managing cash flow to keep operations solvent.
• Establishing risk management controls.
• Hiring a branding firm to refresh OneReef’s communication strategy.
• Planning website updates to match new branding strategy.
• Figuring out how to transition contractors to staff positions.


(1) investigate the causes of economic imbalances, particularly in relation to ecosystem services, climate change, food production, and other environmental matters
-The project specifically works with communities to create long-term equitable agreements that protect marine resources while mitigating the effects of climate change on coral reef habitats
(4) explore and develop market-based solutions
-If successful, OneReef will establish a market-based solution to funding coral reef preservation, creating a self-sustaining source of funds for our activities


This project is the next logical step toward a 21st century safety net for coral reefs and communities across the Micronesia Region. OneReef is currently developing a financial mechanism to provide long-term funding for coral conservation in Palau working with The Ocean Foundation and Conservation International. In particular, this step will formalize agreements with the Republic of Palau by applying conservation finance techniques to leverage their tourist visitation fees (about $4.5M annually, Palau uses the U.S. dollar as its currency).

Using grant funds, OneReef will hire Brett Howell for a 12-month consultancy to support development of a conservation finance mechanism in Palau. The consultancy will include a site visit to the country and support of OneReef’s organizational development, including expansion of Micronesia operations, building the abovementioned finance mechanism, and building the capacity of OneReef Micronesia to manage operations. The Walker Foundation grant has been matched by an equal grant from the Anthropocene Institute.

Project Link

Amount Approved
$60,000.00 on 8/13/2013 (Check sent: 8/27/2013)

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