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April 2016 e-Newsletter
In This Issue: Protecting a Micronesian WatershedA Brighter Future in Bangladesh2015 Annual ReportSeacology On Sri Lankan TV •  East Bay Gives

Safeguarding a Pristine Watershed

For centuries, the people of the Micronesian island of Pohnpei have maintained a careful balance with the Awak River Basin and its surrounding forest. Practicing a sophisticated form of argoforestry, they have cultivated crops with respect for the sensitivity of this water source and maintained a self-enforced ban on planting above the Awak waterfall.

In recent years, however, growing demand for sakau (better known internationally as kava) has put pressure on the land, and some members of the community took to planting in the previously restricted area. Runoff from the Awak village's pigs had also begun to contaminate the river and threatened the safety of the local drinking water.

In early 2014, working with Seacology and the Conservation Society of Pohnpei, village leaders took action and declared more than 300 acres of the forest part of a new reserve area. In exchange, we funded the establishment of a new community and youth center. In a related effort, supported by the Global Environment Facility, the village is converting some pig operations to a new dry-waste system to eliminate runoff into the river.
The youth center opened in December, and the project was finalized last month. With our role in helping Awak achieve its sustainability goals complete, the project has exceeded our expectations. Seeing the results of the buy-in from Seacology and other outside parties, the community voluntarily expanded its proposal for the reserve area by almost 50 percent! The revised boundaries, now totaling 455 acres of protected watershed, are pending approval by the regional government. This kind of community-driven conservation is the ideal outcome of a Seacology project, and we're thrilled that it's been realized once again in the Pacific.

Seacology's First Bangladesh Project Nears Completion

The country of Bangladesh faces many well-known challenges—widespread poverty, poor access to government services, lack of public infrastructure, and environmental degradation among them. St. Martin's Island, a narrow strip of land just off the eastern shore of the Bay of Bengal, is a microcosm of these national issues. The growth of tourism has brought some investment to St. Martin's north end, but has also led to an increase in plastic pollution and sedimentation impacting the island's coral reefs—the only ones in the country. Also under threat are the island's beaches, which comprise an important nesting ground for sea turtles. This combination of human and ecological needs made St. Martin's an ideal site for Seacology's first project in Bangladesh.

In 2013, we partnered with MarineLife Alliance, a Bangladeshi conservation group, to protect more than 1,400 acres of marine habitat along the island's southeastern coast. To aid in the demarcation and enforcement of this new protected area, Seacology funded a number of mooring buoys, signage, guard sheds and a marine-activities center. In exchange for the community's help in supporting their new reserve, we also built a sturdy, elevated school building. This new facility (photo above) greatly expands educational opportunities for children in the island's south, who previously had to make the four-kilometer trek to the northern tip to attend classes, a task impossible for many during the monsoon season.

On a trip last month, Seacology's Program Manager Mary Randolph and India/Bangladesh field representative Vineeta Hoon visited several projects in India and Bangladesh and observed the St. Martin's work firsthand.

While not quite complete, the project is already paying off. The school building still needs windows and some other finishing touches, but it's already holding classes and should soon serve about 100 local children. The community is very enthusiastic about encouraging its youth to pursue educational opportunities and is recruiting permanent teachers to meet the growing demand.
Mary found the MPA supported by the project to be well-managed, even though only one of its three guard sheds is complete. Our partners at MarineLife Alliance meticulously guard the area's sensitive turtle nesting grounds and track turtle populations there. They're also working with the local fishing community to reduce bycatch and recruiting people from local villages to aid in the monitoring effort.

During Mary's visit, a clutch of olive ridley turtles hatched on a protected beach on the mainland and she was able to help our partners release the tiny reptiles into the surf. Watching them discover freedom for the first time reflected the sense of optimism and opportunity to be found in this underprivileged but determined community.

Reflecting on a Monumental Year for Island Conservation

It's hard to overstate how big 2015 was for Seacology. We launched the Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project, the largest and most ambitious project in our history. At the same time we funded 15 other new Seacology projects and continued our support for dozens of active ones. We led guests on adventures to Cuba and Australia, our first trips to both countries. We honored a courageous woman from India for setting a brilliant example of community and environmental leadership. And we did all of this through careful stewardship of our supporters' contributions.

We invite you to revisit the highlights of this eventful year for island conservation, details on how our donors' money was spent, and a lot of stunning photos from the unique island communities where we work, in our 2015 annual report, just released.

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Seacology Returns to Sri Lanka Airwaves

We're becoming regulars on Sri Lanka's popular morning TV show, "Rise And Shine"! On a recent visit to check on the progress of our nationwide project protecting Sri Lanka's mangroves, Seacology's Karen Peterson and Aaron Rashba, and Sudeesa's Dr. Herath Dissananayake sat down to talk about our work there. Our thanks to the "Rise And Shine" crew for having us back, it's been a great honor to have the show follow the progress of this exciting collaboration. You can watch all three segments on our YouTube channel.

Join Us For a Day of Giving in the East Bay

Seacology has called the San Francisco Bay Area home for almost two decades. We share the area with a mind-boggling number of great charitable organizations, and for the first year, we're joining many of them in a regional day of giving by participating in East Bay Gives. The online event, now in its third year, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for many local nonprofits. While the recipients are based here, donors don't have to be, and we invite you to join us on Tuesday, May 3rd no matter where you are!

By giving to Seacology through the East Bay Gives website, you'll not only contribute directly to our work, but you'll help us qualify for a number of extra prizes awarded throughout the day by the East Bay Community Foundation, the event's organizer. We'll have more details in the days leading up to May 3rd, so stay tuned to our Facebook or Twitter pages.
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