Palau’s Rock Islands Southern Lagoon appoints Chief Resilience Officer
In June 2022, the Resilient Reefs Initiative was launched in Palau with the appointment of its first Chief Resilience Officer and Resilience Advisor. The Chief Resilience Officer will be tasked with bringing local communities, businesses, NGOs, and tourism operators together in an effort to build an inclusive resilience strategy for this globally outstanding World Heritage coral reef.
The Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau) is the fourth World Heritage-listed coral reef to launch the Initiative. Across the three existing Resilient Reefs sites [Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize), Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France) and Ningaloo Coast (Australia)], the Initiative has demonstrated that local pressures can be reduced through active intervention and that supporting local communities helps them to adapt their income and livelihoods to the changing realities of climate change.
The Resilient Reefs Initiative aims to achieve long-lasting change by bolstering both the coral reef ecosystems and the communities that depend on them and who face systemic shocks and stresses brought upon by climate change. The recruitment of the Chief Resilience Officers, now present in all four participating World Heritage coral reefs, helps coordinate local resilience actions that focus on both people and nature, and helps to drive the implementation of an inclusive resilience strategy that is supported by local communities and businesses.
Work at the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon includes the training of local rangers and communities in the latest science and skills in fisheries management, adaptation, and resilience. The design of a fishing permit system to control access, the implementation of fish size limits to increase spawning biomass, and the protection of habitats ensuring the life history of species will all help to create the conditions in which fish stocks can rebound. Upon the release of the site’s resilience strategy, up to AUD$1 million will be made available to support local climate resilience actions.
The Rock Islands Southern Lagoon was inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural site on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012 and consists of numerous large and small forested limestone islands, scattered within a marine lagoon, and protected by a barrier reef. The remains of stonework villages, as well as burial sites and rock art, bear testimony to the livelihood of small island communities who developed in the area for over three millennia.
Resilient Reefs is a global, six-year, AUD$14 million program (approximately USD$10.5 million at time of writing of this article), established by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy’s Reef Resilience Network, Columbia University’s Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes, Resilient Cities Catalyst, UNESCO and AECOM.