The Challenge: Guam’s coastal marine resources are facing a potential collapse. This was due to a number of reasons: 1) a decline in public support for policies to protect and sustain these sensitive areas; and 2) an increase in development activities using environmentally insensitive building techniques that cause environmental degradation by negatively impacting island watershed and reef areas. In order to combat this, SeaGrant needed to devise a strategy that would allow them to effectively interface with the local community to help educate and shape their knowledge about Guam’s coral reefs in order to prevent a catastrophic collapse of Guam’s coastal marine resources. Sea Grant is a renowned national program, administered by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, to foster collaboration between universities and communities to address environmental issues that impact the nation’s coast line.
Our Approach: Our team developed a marketing strategy to address how to engage the community in reducing sedimentation of the reefs and preserving Guam’s watershed. The key components of the strategic plan was to develop an effective outreach program that would provide for an informed citizenry and motivate businesses and community stakeholders to learn more about what can be done to preserve Guam’s reefs and why that is important. The outreach and educational strategy was designed to explain the positive outcomes of preserving Guam’s coast line and why doing so will protect and improve quality of life for Guamanians. Local resident surveys, along with stakeholder focus groups were executed to gauge differential levels of awareness of, and attitudes towards, coral reef sustainability and a variety of legislative and regulatory initiatives to shape coastal recreational activities, and reduce over fishing and harvesting on Guam’s reefs. That information base was then used to develop a strategic plan for a continued initiative by Sea Grant to preserve and enhance Guam’s coastal resources.
The Outcome: That strategic planning process was successful in bringing together businesses, community organizations and the government to consider and devise ways to better inform the public and advise policy makers regarding coral reef preservation. A long term community education program was devised and a series of public outreach programs were initiated. Also the Strategic established and developed the guiding principles for an advisory panel which continues to ensure community input to Sea Grants mission. These activities lead to the official formation of a Sea Grant program at the University of Guam, which is still in operation today. Guam is the only coastal area outside the United States that has been awarded Sea Grant status.