Micronesia

Environment:

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) consists of 4 major island groups in the North Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Indonesia. The 4 main island groups are Pohnpei, Chuuk (formerly “Truk”), Yap, and Kosrae, totaling 607 islands. The terrain varies geologically from high mountainous islands to low, coral atolls. There are volcanic outcroppings on Pohnpei, Kosrae, and Chuuk. The highest point is Dolohmwar at 791 meters (2,595 feet), on Pohnpei.

Environmental issues include overfishing, climate change, and pollution. In 2005, the treaty-based Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission was established on Pohnpei for the conservation and management of tuna and other highly migratory fish stocks. The national government does maintain an Office of Environment and Emergency Management concerned with climate change action. The College of Micronesia maintains a Biodiversity Clearing-House Mechanism portal. Based on Pohnpei, the Micronesia Conservation Trust was created in 2002 to support biodiversity conservation and related sustainable development. Kosrae Village Ecolodge, founded by award-winning local environmentalist Madison Nena, is actively involved in Reef Protection Projects. Micronesia Shark Defenders maintains a presence on Facebook.

There are 2 designated Biosphere Reserves in FSM, Utwe (Utwe-Walung Conservation Area, Utwe-Walung Marine Park) and And Atoll. Utwe Biosphere Reserve is administered by the Kosrae Conservation and Safety Organization. And Atoll Biosphere Reserve is Pohnpei’s number one marine Area of Biological Significance, administered under the Conservation Society of Pohnpei. Oroluk Atoll is another marine sanctuary in Pohnpei State.

Chuuk Lagoon (formerly “Truk Lagoon”) served as a forward anchorage for the Japanese Imperial Fleet and was the site for one of the major naval air attacks of WWII; today, it is considered one of the top wreck diving destinations in the world, both a sanctuary and underwater monument. Both the Blue Lagoon Resort & Dive Shop and Truk Stop Hotel & Dive Center specialize in diving Chuuk Lagoon. There are also a good number of dive operators in the Yap Islands, including Beyond The Reef, Manta Ray Bay Resort & Yap Divers, and Yap Pacific Dive Resort. In addition to diving, Nature’s Way has been organizing a variety of ecotourism experiences in the Yap Islands since 1993.

Culture:

Micronesia proper is a much larger area than the region covered by the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) – Pohnpei, Chuuk, Yap, and Kosrae. Prior to European arrival, there was an economic and religious empire centered on Yap, as evidenced by the famous stone money of Yap, called Rai stones. The mysterious stone city Nan Madol on the eastern edge of the island of Pohnpei was occupied by tens of thousands of people until the approximate arrival of the Portuguese and then Spanish explorers in the 16th century. The Spanish sold the islands to Germany following the Spanish-American War, at the end of the 19th century. The Japanese took over at the outset of WWI, and the United States gained control during WWII. Subsequently, they were administered by the U.S. as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands until full independence in 1986. Due to a Compact of Free Association with the United States, FSM is listed among countries without armed forces. As of 2013, the U.S. State Department travel advisory for FSM listed crime as an issue, particularly in Chuuk; apparently, there is a history of considerable alcohol-fueled anti-tourist abuse of various kinds.

Although there is no official World Heritage yet, the Yapese Disk Money Regional Sites (Rai stones) and the Ceremonial Centres of the Early Micronesian States (Nan Madol and Lelu) have been submitted to the Tentative Lists of World Heritage. The national register of historic places in FSM includes the Catholic Belltower on Pohnpei, Dinay village on Yap, Wiichen Men’s Meetinghouse on Moen Island in Chuuk State. In addition to the FSM Visitors Board based on Pohnpei, there are individual websites for Chuuk Visitors Bureau, Kosrae Visitors Bureau, Pohnpei Visitors Bureau, and Yap Visitors Bureau. The Yap Living History Museum maintains a presence on Facebook. Interesting places to stay include the Kosrae Village Ecolodge, Pacific Treelodge Resort on Kosrae, and Pathways Eco-Hotel in the Yap Islands. In 2012, opposition by Concerned Yap Citizens lead to the suspension of a massive Chinese-backed tourism development planned for Yap.

References:

  • Keeping it Local: Towards a Micronesian Product Seal by PR Barcinas, 2011
  • Geographies of tourism and place in Micronesia: the ‘sleeping lady’ awakes by GD Ringer, 2004
  • Heritage Ecotourism in Micronesia: What Do Decision Makers Expect? by DHR Spennemann & DW Look, 2002
  • Heritage Eco-Tourism in Micronesia-Expectations of Government Officials by DHR Spennemann & DW Look, 2001
  • Cultural tourism in the Federated States of Micronesia by S Falgout, 1999
  • Agriculture and tourism linkages in Micronesia by RL Bowen, JW Brown & JM Halloran, 1994
  • Journey through a sea of islands: A review of forest tourism in Micronesia by J Wylie, 1994
  • Ecotourism and nature conservation: a definition with some recent developments in Micronesia by PS Valentine, 1993
  • Tourism development on the island of pohnpei (Federated States of Micronesia): Sacredness, control and autonomy by C Dahl, 1993
  • Slippery paths: connections and divergences between historic preservation and tourism in Micronesia by EL Krause, 1992
  • Tourism related to marine resource conservation in Micronesia by C Dahl & M Gawel, 1990
  • Tourism, Handicrafts, and Ethnic Identity in Micronesia by JD Nason, 1984
  • Local Control of Tourism in Micronesia by M Uludong, 1977
  • Micronesia Tastes Tourism by M Ashman, 1974
  • The social and cultural impacts of tourism development in Micronesia and Wuvulu Island by FT Polson, 1973
  • Issues in the Economic Development of Micronesia: Tourism as an Example by DC Smith, 1972