During a recent visit to Palau, a high-profile German delegation met with Rare’s Palau team to learn about our work to help fishing communities on the frontlines of climate change. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock met with Rare’s team on the ground and learned how small-scale fishers contribute to climate resilience. During her visit, which followed Minister Baerbock’s participation in the high-level G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Indonesia, she was joined by Germany’s Special Envoy for International Climate Action Jennifer Morgan and representatives of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).
Meeting the Fishing for Climate Resilience team
Foreign Minister Baerbock made it a priority to engage with various community members and fishers in the state of Melekeok – some of the individuals hit hardest by the climate change and biodiversity crises. Kevin Mesebeluu, a project implementation manager with Rare, introduced the delegates to Palau’s local government and community partners involved in Rare’s Fishing for Climate Resilience initiative. Fishers shared stories of resilience and highlighted the importance of supporting community-led approaches to coastal fisheries management in Palau and around the world. Minister Baerbock concluded her visit by voicing the importance of small-scale fisheries for climate change adaptation, local resilience, and food security.
“Where will we live? What nationality will my grandchild have? These are the types of questions that community members in Melekeok have been asking since development and rising tides added additional pressures to their traditional livelihoods. Elders, chiefs, men, women, and youth listened on as Baerbock assured them with hope, ‘We are not oceans apart, but side by side,'” said Mesebeluu.
„The ocean is swallowing up our homes” is what people told me here in Palau. It takes my breath away to see how rising sea levels are threatening the existence of men, women and children. It’s cristal clear what will happen if sea levels rise even further. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/HmRaYTn0oX
— Außenministerin Annalena Baerbock (@ABaerbock) July 9, 2022
Building climate resilience
Nature provides the best defense against rising sea temperatures, disasters, and other impacts of climate change. With support from Germany’s International Climate Initiative (IKI), Rare and its partners created Fishing for Climate Resilience, a project that empowers small-scale fishing communities to fight climate change through Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) approaches. The initiative is based in communities across the Philippines, Indonesia, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau.
Fishing for Climate Resilience motivates marginalized fishery-dependent communities to play an active role in managing resources alongside local leaders and government. Through hands-on behavior adoption methodology, Rare teaches the importance of establishing marine reserves and protecting the territorial seas, the area where biodiversity and human action most overlap. Working with local community members, Rare gradually mainstreams Ecosystem-based Adaptation approaches, such as the implementation of climate resilient Managed-Access and Reserve areas, into local practices and policies, using a blend of socio-behavioral and marine science.
The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionally impacts the ocean economy and fishing communities, especially Small-Island Developing States (SIDS) like Palau that rely heavily on tourism. As the world rebuilds economic infrastructures impacted by the pandemic, nature and small-scall fishing sectors will play a critical role in achieving a “blue” recovery – one where coastal and marine nature-based solutions support long-term economic, social, and environmental resilience. The results: fishers improve their livelihoods and coastal communities develop large-scale resilience to climate change and pandemics.
Looking ahead to future successes for coastal fisheries
Mesebeluu’s gratitude mirrors the sentiment felt by all at Rare. “It was an honor to receive Foreign Minister Baerbock and her delegation,” he exclaimed. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to connect people with people and show the great work that has resulted from the German government’s investment with Rare – it has truly strengthened the resiliency of the people of Melekeok. The community will look to continue its efforts as a model to inspire other communities to increase efforts in fishing for climate resilience and nature-based solutions to adapt to climate change.”
“We thank Foreign Minister Baerbock and her delegation for taking the time to engage with Palau’s local fishing communities in Melekeok,” added Rocky Sanchez Tirona, Managing Director of Rare’s Fish Forever program. “We are excited to see the appointment of a German Special Envoy for Small-Island Developing States (SIDS) and welcome this position as an opportunity to continue working with vulnerable coastal communities through our Fish for Climate Resilience project.”