Tetiaroa Atoll is a rare, secluded place that serves as a refuge for nesting green sea turtles and a variety of seabird species, surrounded by a healthy and ecologically important coral reef and a brilliant turquoise lagoon.
Unfortunately, like other atolls around the globe, Tetiaroa and the coral reefs that support it are at serious risk due to the negative effects of climate change and resource misuse– but there is hope. Local nonprofits Tetiaroa Society and Te mana o te moana, along with their partners – The Brando Resort, The Brando Family Trust, and the local government and community – are working to preserve and restore the atoll.
International nonprofit Mission Blue has declared the Tetiaroa Atoll a Hope Spot in support of Tetiaroa Society’s goal of establishing full protection of the island from a ground-up, grassroots approach and in support of Te mana o te moana’s long term sea turtle nesting program on the atoll.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue said, “We need to do everything in our power to protect and restore places like Tetiaroa Atoll as if our lives depend on it – because they do. The time is now to do what we can to continue to conserve this special place – hope for the world’s atolls and reefs.”
This Hope Spot designation will aid in Tetiaroa Society and Te mana o te moana’s goals by recognizing the importance of ground-up sustainability programs in front of an informed global audience. The right tools to achieve comprehensive sustainability are in place, and with community-spearheaded action, the mission of fully protecting this precious atoll holds much promise.
To investigate these ongoing threats, Tetiaroa Society operates a research station on the island, hosting researchers from all over the world. Research and conservation programs include habitat restoration, shark ecology, archaeology, coral reef restoration, traditional fisheries management and ocean acidification modeling. Tetiaroa Society also runs an education program on the island for local and international students.
Frank Murphy, Hope Spot Champion and Executive Director of Tetiaroa Society described its mission on the island as follows, “Our primary objective is to protect and preserve Tetiaroa for future generations. We created a Conservation and Sustainable Use Plan to follow towards this objective. But our larger goal is that Tetiaroa will play a significant role in developing new ideas and technologies that will safeguard our world’s seas and unleash the potential of our oceans to help feed, power, and heal the planet.”
Tetiaroa Society’s Cultural Committee, as the liaison with the local community, serves as an advisor to all conservation, education, and scientific programs on Tetiaroa. Hinano Murphy, Tetiaroa Society Cultural Director, explains, “We want Tetiaroa to serve as a model of a truly sustainable community, and to show how traditional knowledge and scientific understanding can work together to help address environmental challenges.”
Te mana o te moana launched the Sea Turtle Monitoring and Research Program on Tetiaroa in 2007. With over 12 years of data, the Sea Turtle program has been a great success with over 1,500 nests inventoried and protected. This dedicated research program also studies the effects of climate change and predators on nesting success.
Dr. Cécile Gaspar, Hope Spot Champion, Founder and Executive Director of Te mana o te moana explains, “I met Sylvia Earle over 20 years ago. Since that day, her words have strengthened my conviction for immediate action towards protecting our oceans. Sea turtles are iconic marine species on the front line of climate change threats. Te mana o te moana’s Green Sea Monitoring Program on Tetiaroa atoll has been an outstanding success. We are proud to be part of Marlon Brando’s vision for a new conservation model where tourists, communities, teachers, students and researchers all play an important role in protecting our natural resources.”
The Brando resort, which donated a million-dollar research station to Tetiaroa Society, plays a key role in the conservation of Tetiaroa. The Brando is a luxury eco-resort which is carbon-neutral, Platinum LEED certified, and a leader in sustainability. The resort functions with near-zero net carbon through programs such as deep-sea water air conditioning, solar power, and biofuel (local coconut oil). Guests of the resort enjoy this amazing green resort and explore the island with Tetiaroa Society guides, while local school children use the hotel as a lesson in sustainable development and researchers study sustainable technologies.
Richard Bailey, President and CEO of Pacific Beachcomber, which owns The Brando Resort, says, “Marlon Brando and I were guided from the outset by the conviction that to succeed on Tetiaroa we would have to build a community of shared values and not just another resort. Becoming a Mission Blue Hope Spot is the highest recognition we could receive that we are achieving this goal.”