Ant Atoll Panorama
Ant Atoll, Federated States of Micronesia, a One Reef marine conservation area. Photo credit: Pohnpei Surf Club.
Project Report:
Ecosystem Finance Mechanism for Micronesia
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


We will continue to develop an efficient and diversified long-term funding mechanism that aligns multiple funding sources, creates financial reserves, and services OneReef’s Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs) for 20 years or more.


OneReef’s mission is to create vibrant reefs and thriving communities by servicing the needs of local communities - financial, scientific and technical - so they can effectively protect vital marine ecosystems. We work with engaged local communities in Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia, who own their coral reefs and want to protect them from climate change, overfishing, and other threats. Our innovative model connects global funders with governments and communities to create sustainable financing for conservation projects into the future.

OneReef structures local partnerships under Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs) – which last 20 years and are renewable. MCAs are essentially non-binding contracts that provide payment to groups in return for behavior changes around use of reef areas. Communities commit to a marine spatial plan that includes no-take areas, catch limits, and monitoring.

Through MCAs, communities receive jobs, skills, and healthy reefs, e.g., more fish. Global funding partners commit to providing financial and technical resources necessary for implementing the plan. Both parties benefit when critical climate change adaptation tasks and sustainable resource use are bundled, packaged and pegged to a finite investment stream. Although these parties may live far apart and differ culturally, they share a commitment to resilient and intact reefs.

OneReef is looking for a way to scale preservation by working with communities that already own the reefs, rather than focusing on open access coral commons or other ownership schemes that do not allow for such direct relationship-building. Long term, One Reef will develop clusters of networked MCAs in Palau, Yap, Pohnpei, and elsewhere that allow for capacity sharing, co-financing, and larval connectivity among sites. We will incorporate participation of traditional and elected leaders, key funders, and scientists to establish the scientific capacity to measure impact and adaptively manage protected reef areas (currently, our science partners include The Scripps Institution of Oceanography).

As we work with communities across the Asia-Pacific, OneReef and our local partners recognize that enhancement of ecological health requires steady financing that is uninterrupted, predicable, and adequate to maintain core project functions.

An efficient and diversified long-term funding mechanism is a focus of our work. While we focus on many elements of marine conservation, the Alex C. Walker Foundation has provided invaluable support for developing effective financing mechanisms, both with regards to OneReef’s MCAs and as we work with national and local partners to create region-wide sustainable financing programs.


Enabling Palau's state investment in MCAs is directly aligned with the Walker Foundation’s goals:

Goal 1: The project specifically works with communities to create contracts that protect marine resources while mitigating the effects of climate change on coral reef habitats. OneReef will connect state resources, including tourism "Green fees" which are explicitly designated for the protection of coral ecosystems, with communities that have demonstrated commitment but lack funding to sustainably leverage investments.

Goal 4: If successful, OneReef will establish a market-based solution to funding coral reef preservation, creating a self-sustaining source of funds for MCA development that leverages state investments and global funders.

Goal 5: OneReef continues to develop new communication channels and synthesize and add to existing marketing collateral (e.g. images, clips, newsletters) which contribute to the dissemination of project information and results


OneReef is focused on creating strong partnerships within the Republic of Palau (ROP), where we have been invited to create a national sustainable financing plan for conservation. The Protected Areas Network (PAN) was established by the Palau legislature to reinvest public tourism fees into protecting national marine and terrestrial conservation. PAN acts as a national fund and directly provides over $1.5m annually to conservation projects across Palau. The PAN is currently supporting over ten sites in Palau and intends to continue growing its portfolio, which will require a formal plan for providing finances and long-term management. Palau’s Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism (MNRET) administers the PAN and is a critical partner in OneReef’s work to protect Palau’s most critical ecosystems.

This public funding can be leveraged with global philanthropy to fully support effective conservation projects, which is a central part of our model for sustainable financing. In 2015, we have been able to further our program substantially through the Walker Foundation’s support:

Spring 2015: MNRET Minister Umiich invited OneReef to create a sustainable financing plan for the national Protected Areas Network (PAN).

- As identified in our Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with MNRET, OneReef’s entrepreneurial model has direct positive impact on site-based conservation projects.
- As PAN grows its portfolio, OneReef has the expertise and partnerships to effectively create a long-term financing plan for the nation’s most valuable marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Summer 2015: Developed draft terms of reference for implementing the MoU with the Ministry, partner organizations in Palau, and our staff.

- OneReef’s Micronesia staff held a series of meetings with Environment Minister Umiich and King Sam, PAN’s Program Manager, to understand the PAN’s desired scope for our sustainable finance work. These conversations helped to further our staff’s relationship with PAN and perform an informal needs assessment for successfully implementing the MoU.

Fall 2015: OneReef and MNRET met in Palau in September to discuss the scope of our work together. We created a formal work plan that includes a national model for sustainable finance, as well as specific site-based evaluations.

We participated in a series of key meetings, including:
- Minister Umiich & PAN staff: formalizing our partnership through an in-person meeting with the entire OneReef team, and aligning goals for the sustainable financing plan.
- Bureau of Tourism, Palau Visitors Authority: to understand the tourism industry’s needs, projections, and future direction, since tourism fees support the Green Fee and PAN administration.
- Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF): OneReef Micronesia staff attended CSF's Economic Symposium held in Koror in November 2015 to understand ongoing tourism assessments of the tourism industry and projected impacts on Green Fee revenue.
- The Nature Conservancy (TNC): Mauricio Schmitz from TNC facilitated a meeting regarding the PAN’s overall management planning process. We participated with more than twenty other stakeholders, and many identified sustainable financing as a priority for the PAN’s long-term success. OneReef Regional Coordinator Surech Hideyos is working with Mauricio Schmitz to coordinate our sustainable financing plan with any relevant outcomes or information from his facilitation.

Winter 2015: Hired Palauan finance and accounting contractor, Melwert Kikuo, to work as our on-the-ground specialist as we develop the PAN’s sustainable financing plan.

- Melwet Kikuo is an experienced accountant and member of the PAN office, who is familiar with the financing and developing of PAN’s projects. He will be working in close coordination with our OneReef Micronesia staff to perform site evaluations, create site-specific sustainable financing plans, and determine nationally-relevant mechanisms in addition to our model.

Information Dissemination

Our staff is engaged in working with communities across Palau through multiple forum, including PAN-sponsored events, private meetings, and MCA development. Our sustainable financing plan for the PAN will ensure that communities have sufficient funding for their conservation projects, and that the entire network is supported as it grows. Additionally, OneReef has created brief newsletters to inform the wider community about our progress across Micronesia.

Project Link

Amount Approved
$60,000.00 on 6/5/2015 (Check sent: 7/13/2015)

OneReef Team and Palau President Remengesau
The OneReef team met with Palau's President, Tommy Remengesau in September 2015 to discuss our work with the Protected Areas Network and site-based conservation across Palau. The President was excited about our ongoing projects and future MCAs that will contribute to the success of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, recently established in fall 2015 to protect 80% of marine waters from any fishing and create a strong domestic fishery in the remaining 20%. He also supports our community-based engagement as a critical step in effectively conserving reefs.

Palau has countless small islands, sand bars, and reefs that are home to over 1,500 species of fish and 700 species of coral - some of the highest numbers anywhere in the world. These pristine ecosystems are at risk of overfishing, climate change, and more, and their conservation relies on the effective connection of local communities and global resources.

Palauan community members
Local communities know that coral reefs are the basis for their livelihoods as well as their traditions. OneReef is committed to helping them leave a lasting legacy for future generations.

Vibrant reefs in Palau draw over 100,000 tourists per year. Diving and snorkeling are a huge part of Palau's economy, and local communities also rely on sustainable fishing to provide subsistence. Healthy reefs are critical to Palau's people and industry.

Rock Islands, Protected Area in Palau
The Rock Islands Southern Lagoon has an incredible variety of sandbars, limestone islands, and thriving coral reefs. Tourists can kayak, snorkel, dive, and more - creating a sustainable, non-extractive industry for the nation. OneReef is working to connect the "Green Fees" from tourism with effective conservation.

Palau's conservation officers at work
OneReef is working with several communities in Palau to hire and train conservation officers. These officers can prevent illegal fishing, and ensure that marine protected areas are actually protected from overuse and unsustainable, illegal practices. Our success is dependent upon the communities' commitment to protection - and we are thrilled to see an increased demand for conservation officer training.

Palau's jellyfish lakes are word-famous protected areas and a huge tourism destination. The jellyfish are located in lakes within some of the Rock Islands' limestone islands, and have lost their ability to sting.

Palau's vibrant reefs
Palau's reefs are filled with diverse fish species, sharks, invertebrates, and corals. It is truly a beautiful jewel in the Micronesia region, and its "Green Fee" system is a example of how to combine non-extractive tourism with sustainably financing conservation for long-term benefits.

Posted 3/23/2015 3:57 PM
Updated   3/12/2016 9:46 AM

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