Dates: June 22-28, 2014
Divers: Dr. Stuart Sandin, Dr. Jennifer Smith
Lead Organization: OneReef, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Collaborators: Conservation Society of Pohnpei
Ant Atoll is roughly 9 miles southwest of Pohnpei Island in the Federated States of Micronesia. Ant itself is privately owned by one of Pohnpei’s largest families, Nanpei. Although Ant is uninhabited, due to its proximity to Pohnpei the threat of illegal fishing and overharvesting has increased. Ant Atoll atolls have typical structure, with enclosed lagoons, steep outer reef slopes, and support several low, narrow, forest-covered islands along their rims. And Atoll has a navigable reef pass on its southern side, which drains the lagoon on the falling tides.
This uninhabited atoll consists of 12 islets encompassing 1.86 km^2. The atoll is 12.5 km long and 11 km wide, with a lagoon about 74 km^2.
Protection Status: As of 2009, the Ant Atoll Management Planning Team had submitted conservation and management plans to create a biosphere reserve on Ant. In the past, permission from the Rohsa (traditional leader) was required to fish on Ant. Rhosa is a traditional title reserved only for members of the Nahnpei family, the landowners of Ant. However, this tradition has weakened over time and currently no members of the Nahnpei family are living on Ant to enforce this rule.
Management: Pohnpei and the other FSM states have two agencies responsibility for marine management – the Marine Resources Management office and Environmental Protection Agency office. Other agencies involved in assessment and monitoring include the College of Micronesia-FSM, The Nature Conservancy and the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP).
Human Use & Interaction at Ant Atoll: Ant Atoll is believed to be a sacred fishing location, also known as the Island of the Dead, where spirits are banished. It is thought that Ant has had a fluctuating population since 800 A.D., used in part to produce copra from the 1800’s through the early 1970’s. Although Ant is not currently inhabited, it is still frequented by hunters, fishermen, recreational divers, and weekend picnickers. Since many of Pohnpei’s fish stocks are depleted, particularly in the lagoon region, encroachment on Ant is increasingly common to maintain catch.