The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) in the northwest equatorial Pacific, encompasses a total land area of as little as 134 km2, and a total reef area of 6,110 km2 (Spalding et al. 2001) with extremely rich marine resources. A local interest in coral reef management and conservation has recently arisen. The RMI have committed to: 1. activate conservation sites, 2. train local people in knowledge and skills to conserve marine resources, and 3. improved understanding of marine ecosystems to achieve sustainable development and resource use, environmental protection, and an improvement of income opportunities (RMI 2001). Several local and short-term projects contributing to reef conservation have been initiated in the past three years, including College of the Marshall Islands (CMI)-led data collection at Mili, Bikini, Likiep, Ailinginiae and Rongelap Atoll. The Marshall Islands Marine Resource Authority (MIMRA) is aiming to take the leadership in coordinating all efforts towards conservation and management, but lacks personnel specifically trained in marine ecology and conservation. The scientific support for these tasks is offered by the Marine Science Program at CMI who have established a marine resource management
and assessment short training course for summer 2004. Namu Atoll was identified as one of the priority atolls for resource assessment and the establishment of marine reserves. Additionally, the local government is extremely interested to designate marine reserves. Our project links with and complements these efforts by providing data, educational opportunities, recommendations for conservation planning to MIMRA, and a platform for the graduates from the CMI training course to consolidate their skills during their first survey project.