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Introduction to site
Indigenously called Dano, Cocos Island is a 33.6-ha atoll-like island located 2.5 km southwest of Guam (Figure
1). The island is 1.93 km long and 0.15 km wide. About a third of the island (8.8-ha) at the west end is a government-
owned public park while the other two-thirds (24.8-ha) in the northeast is a privately owned day resort managed by
Cocos Island Resort. Cocos Island Resort draws daily visitors and is primarily an attraction for off-island visitors.
Cocos Island is a publicly accessible site where good habitat and native species still exist in relative abundance.
The island provides a rare opportunity for native flora and fauna recovery as it lacks introduced ungulates and cats and
has been eradicated of rodents. Furthermore, Cocos Island can provide an excellent site for koko (Guam Rail,
Gallarallus owstoni) reintroductions. Few Brown treesnakes have been reported on Cocos Island; there may be a small
population or none. Free-ranging koko on Cocos Island will create an opportunity for Guam residents and visitors to
see the endangered bird and boost the economy of the region through sustainable nature-based tourism.

Inventory of major cultural and natural attractions
Natural attractions of Cocos Island include several native species that have been extirpated or are locally extinct from
- Seasonally, there may be thousands of seabirds nesting on the island including Black and Brown noddies and
White terns (Anous minutes, Anous stolidus and Gygis alba)
- Cocos Island houses much of Guams remaining population of Micronesian starlings (Aplonis opaca) or sli
(potentially 50 or more pairs) which are locally endangered.
- In the mid 1990s Cocos Island supported more lizard species (12) than any other island in the Marianas.
- Nesting green sea turtles frequent Cocos Islands beaches.
- Last year, 16 koko or Guam rail (Gallarallus owsoni) were introduced to the island. This endangered species is
the territorial bird of Guam and has not been seen in the wild on Guam since the late 1980s. They currently
persist and are breeding on the island.
Besides fauna, there are natural vegetative areas on Cocos Island that can be attractive to visitors from continental
- The island shows distinct zones typical of coral atolls. There is a beach ridge strand, a forest edge, a mixed forest
area, a Casuarina forest, a lower brushy fringe, and beach scrub.
- The resort area contains cultivated species and secondary forest growth and introduced grasses and vines.
- Overall, Cocos Island provides second growth forest and beach strand habitat for extant Micronesian starlings,
seabirds, lizards and nesting sea turtles.
- The local community often camps on Cocos Island primarily to fish for reef fish within the lagoon and possibly
hunt for Coconut crab and Sea turtle that can be found on the island, all of which are either regulated or
protected by laws and unfortunately not rigidly enforced.
Cultural attractions on Cocos Island include historical sites:
- Pottery can be found on any of Guams shores documenting the period of pre-contact with Western civilization.
This is also true on Cocos Island. Clay pottery shards and a lusong stone (grinding stone) can be found on Cocos
shores. Much of Cocos Islands archaeological resources are subsurface and a definitive map of their location is
not available at this point in time. As a result, all proposed development that involves subsurface disturbance
must be evaluated to safeguard any historic properties present. Like other areas on Guam, tourists are
reminded not to disturb or remove historical artifacts when found.
- During World War II, the US Coast Guard set up radio-based Long Range Navigation Tracking Stations (LORAN)
on tiny islands in the Pacific. These stations housed the guidance systems for aircraft such as B-29s heading to
Japan. Cocos Island is the site of one of these abandoned LORAN stations. While this area is not developed as a
historical site, there is potential for such recognition.
- Similarly to the rest of the Marianas Islands, Guam has a long colonial history and association with Spain. Guam
was a refueling stop for Spanish galleons on their voyages from Mexico to the Philippines. Cocos Island has been
the focus of international attention due to the Spanish galleon, Neustra Senora del Pilar de Zaragosa y Santiago.
It was enroute from Acupulco, Mexico to an annual fair in Manila with shipments of silver swords, artifacts and
possibly as much as $1.2 billion Spanish coins as ballast in the lower decks of her hold when it hit the southern
reef at Cocos Island. The wreck site has yet to be discovered.
- Many foreign Guam visitors go to Cocos Island to experience beach and water activities such as snorkeling,
diving, banana boat rides and paragliding not available to them in their home countries.
General tourist demographics
Due to the duality in the management of Cocos Island, visitors are inadvertently segregated as well. Cocos
Island Resort is primarily an attraction for foreign visitors. These include nationals from primarily Japan, Korea and
China. Guam is the poor mans Hawaii as it is a destination marketed as a quick, tropical vacation for half the cost of
going to Hawaii in Asia. Most visitors to Cocos Island are young and single, newly married or those with young children.
Cocos Island Resort is geared for foreigners in guided groups with signage for non-English speakers. Amenities of the
resort are geared for those wishing to experience fun in the sun and water sports typical of a mass marketed inclusive
packaged beach vacation with little emphasis on local culture.
Many of those employed at Cocos Island Resort are from the local village of Merizo. Most locals usually do not
go to the resort. Instead they frequent the other one-third of the island that is a public park. Here, arrival via personal
boat is permitted and camping allowed with a permit. Locals usually do not partake in the touristy activities of diving,
snorkeling or paragliding but they do free-dive for fish. Most fishermen that frequent Cocos Island are fishing for
sustenance and not recreation. Often traditional fishing methods are used instead of rod and reels. The make-up of
these local visitors is primarily Chamorro (Guams indigenous culture), Filipinos and those from various Micronesian
countries and spans various age groups.
Numbers of visitors from both the foreign and local sectors vary throughout the year. Foreign visitations
coincide with holidays and country specific vacation periods, such as Golden Week in Japan. Unfortunately, Guams
tourism industry saw a decrease in arrivals this year due to the world economic climate and the earthquake and tsunami
disasters in Japan. In contrast, visitations by locals follow the natural cycles of the moon and tides to maximize the
chances of encounters with wildlife and successful fishing or hunting trips.
The military sector, which encompasses as much as one-third the total population of Guam, is absent from
Cocos Island. This could signal an untapped consumer base or the preference of this group to stay within base confines
or within the village of Tumon, otherwise known as The Strip. Tourists in Tumon are seduced by large hotels,
entertainment complexes legitimate and illicit in nature, the conveniences of fast food restaurants and duty-free
Current sustainable tourism principles at the site
Operations at Cocos Island Resort are primarily based on an economic system but are trying to incorporate
environmental and socio-cultural values to reach conservation goals.
In recent years, Cocos Island has been targeted as one of the remaining places of good habitat left on Guam with
great potential for wildlife restoration/conservation. This has been the incentive for Cocos Island Resort, the main
operator on the island. The continuous promotion of biological potential of the island and the important role it can play
in the restoration of Guams environment is attractive to both the resort and local resource agencies. If Cocos Islands
habitat and wildlife are protected and allowed to flourish, then Cocos Island Resort can benefit from increased tourism
revenue which then can be passed onto the locally employed staff. Currently the General Manger of Cocos Island Resort
has been supportive of conservation efforts on the island.
Additionally, the promotion of pride for native species and pride in cultural heritage has also been emphasized.
Stressing the need to protect the environment as a way to preserve cultural heritage is an easy and successful way to
counteract the impact of cultural dilution via mainstream westernization and outside agendas for the island. The issue
of negative impact of development on mainland Guam has been a point of contention recently. Using this momentum
built up after centuries of colonization and the immediate threat of military buildup, Cocos Island is positioned to build
on the needs of the people to preserve what remains in the form of cultural identity and protection of biodiversity.
Current non-sustainable tourism principles at the site
The economics of Cocos Island is the overriding organizing factor. While employment of locals is provided, there
is currently are no plans to support going local initiatives whether that be in support of local products and businesses.
Also, loss revenue could be collected if the resort and tour operators were more open to promoting local travel to Cocos
Island. Cocos Island is primarily a day resort for foreign Guam visitors but the potential for increased economic benefit
exists with a larger clientele, especially within the local community sector.
Through conversations with the Guam Visitors Bureau there also seems to be a movement to promote the
scenic nature of Guams southern landscape but because of the lack of infrastructure, no real plans have been made.
However, it is hopeful that future plans and strategies for island wide tourism will include Cocos Island and its supportive
villages. The support for buildup of infrastructure for sustainable tourism within local communities is lacking.
As previously stated, Cocos Island is unique as it lacks the environmental ills that plague Guam. However, due to
its close proximity and high frequency of ferry arrivals, the threat of predators (rats, cats and snakes) becoming
established on Cocos Island is always imminent. Biosecurity of the island should be top priority to ensure the
sustainability of a pristine environment that tourists expect and will want to return to. However with an uncertain
economy and decrease in tourism, procedures may not be followed to save time and money and therefore negatively
impact the environment, causing a degradation that may affect sustainability. For example, if incoming vessels are not
checked for pest harborage, a pest or predator can stowaway to Cocos Island and dramatically change the landscape,
thereby changing the tourist experience. The sustainability of the pristine landscape is not ensured over the long term.
The resort currently is working with local agencies to resolve issues such as these.
Cocos Island Resort
Cocos Island Resort is a signatory on the Safe Harbor Agreement. The resort is working with
Guam Department of Agriculture to establish bio-security protocols as part of their daily
operations as well as managing waste to minimize food for rodents. The resort assists with
staff training; staff will need to be informed of the project including the necessary protocols
to follow. Cocos Island Resort works with the partners to facilitate management activities, such as the rodent
eradication, monitor lizard control, reforestation, biological monitoring and other activities as agreed upon. The resort
provides in-kind support in the form of logistics and facilities.
Guam Department of Parks & Recreation
The Guam Department of Parks and Recreation is a signatory on the Safe Harbor Agreement and provide
information regarding biosecurity protocols and wildlife restoration to those permitted to use Cocos
Island public dock and picnic facilities. They also assisted in the installation of biosecurity signs on Cocos
Guam Department of Agriculture
The Guam Department of Agricultures Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources (DAWR) is the
coordinating agency for the Ko'ko' for Cocos Project. DAWR is a signatory on the Safe Harbor
Agreement along with Guam Department of Parks and Recreation, US Fish and Wildlife Service
and Cocos Island Resort. DAWR oversees the biological aspect of the project, including bird, lizard
and snake surveys, rodent eradication, monitor lizard control, release and monitoring of Guam rails, as well as ensures
the long-term implementation of biosecurity protocols. The Department of Agricultures Forest and Soil Resources
Division is completing the forest enhancement objectives.
Existing tourism partnerships
In addition to the water sports vendors on Cocos Island (Seawalker (helmeted ocean floor exploration), Scuba
Bob (helmeted scooter-type exploration) and introductory scuba diving), Cocos Island Resort has tried to cultivate many
private sector relationships. Recently the resort has made efforts to be more visible in the local community. They are
known in the local tourism community and have partnered with local businesses for the restoration project such as:
Guam Visitors Bureau
The Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB) partners with the ko'ko' for Cocos Project by providing technical assistance
with marketing and supports the public awareness of the ko'ko' bird through their many events both on a
local and international scale. GVB has also coordinated media events and press for cooperative efforts.

Guam Telephone Authority
Guam Telephone Authority donated a hotline (488-RAIL) to enable the public to
report any sightings of rats, cats or snakes on Cocos Island. Early detection through
hotline reports facilitates rapid response to breaches in biosecurity. Both local and
foreign visitors to Cocos Island are asked to participate in these efforts.

Existing NGO partnerships include:
Rare provided guidance, training and financial support for the Go Native social
marketing campaign designed to garner public support for the biosecurity protocols
included in the Ko'ko' for Cocos Biosecurity Plan. The broad over-arching campaign is a
Go Native Rare Pride Campaign that focuses on instilling local pride in Guams native
natural resources and creating a society that will protect and promote native species
through behavior change that will benefit wildlife and visitors to Cocos Island.

Toyota/Audubon TogetherGreen has contributed funding to sustain biosecurity efforts
and outreach projects on Cocos Island.

Guam Environmental Education Committee
The Guam Environmental Education Committee works to coordinate environmental education
throughout Guam and has supported outreach events on Cocos Island.

Moreover, Cocos Island Resorts relationship has strengthened with the Mayors Office of
Merizo as well as smaller environmental groups within the community. The youth especially have been very active in
the environmental concerns and activities on Cocos Island. Groups such as local schools, the Boy Scouts and iRecycle
have done beach cleanups to help the habitat on Cocos Island.
Social welfare analysis
Besides financial analysis, the social and intangible benefits and costs of nature-based tourism on Cocos
Island can be categorized as follows:
Private benefits
- Fishing grounds within Cocos Island lagoon for reef fish
- Hunting grounds for Coconut crab and Sea turtle, though each are protected under law
- Camping grounds within the public side of the island
Social benefits
- Predator free (rats, cats, and snakes) island for both public and resort side of island
- Increased visitation numbers to both the public and resort side
- Increased revenues to resort and its associated vendors
- Increased access and availability for the public to see threatened and endangered species
Undetermined benefits
- Nesting/roosting sites for migratory sea birds
- Refuge for local threatened lizards and forest birds
- Improved habitat for release of endangered and threatened species as well as existing species on the island.
- Other species will benefit from increased biosecurity measures associated with endangered species
- The island can be used as a living laboratory
- Birds will exhibit wild behavior traits
- Ko'ko' can be collected for release elsewhere.
Direct Costs
- Cost of maintaining biosecurity through rodent eradication, monitor lizard control, and outreach
- Cost of biological staff to monitor biosecurity and wildlife through lizard, snake and bird surveys
- Cost to enhance/rehabilitate habitat and reforestation
- Cost of equipment, both scientific and general in nature, to facilitate above mentioned work and increase public
Indirect Costs
- Use of rodenticides to remove rats on Cocos island caused initial fear in public, especially fishermen
- Elimination of prey items (lizards) by introduced koko
- Increased poaching of Sea turtle and Coconut crab caused by attention to Cocos Islands natural resources
At the moment, there are no restrictions to hunting or fishing on Cocos Island or within the lagoon. The only
restrictions that exist are those concerned with threatened and endangered wildlife, which is enforced by territorial and
national laws. No one is restricted to going to the island however a permit is technically required for overnight camping.
But due to the islands relative remoteness and the lack of local government funding, laws are not enforced as
stringently as they should.
Environmental and Cultural Impacts
With more visitors to Cocos Island, there could be several potential direct and indirect environmental impacts.
First, increase visitation numbers would increase the amount of boat traffic going to and from Cocos Island. This
increase traffic could cause potential harm to reefs if inexperienced boat captains are not aware of safe routes to the
island. Direct damage to reefs and marine life could result through improper moorings, running aground as well as oil
spills or improper waste disposal. On the other hand, marine life such as sea turtles could also be harmed through
collisions with increased boat traffic as well as be impacted by water pollution through land and boat point sources.
Additionally, tangled fishing equipment left on reefs are hazardous to fish and marine mammals. For example,
abandoned cast nets can prevent sea turtles from reaching the shore to nest and refuse left on the beach can be
hazardous to hatching nestlings that get tangled in garbage and impede their path to the ocean.
Terrestrially, Cocos Island has the advantage of being a day resort with little development, roads and motorized
vehicles, more visitors to Cocos Island can still result in increased direct impact of wildlife. Harassment can be as mild as
paparazzi stalking behavior to capture wildlife on film or as detrimental as illegal poaching of wildlife. As previously
stated in other assignments, Coconut crab (Birgus latro) and Green sea turtle (Chelonia midas) have and continue to be a
part of cultural diets. Increased visitation to Cocos Island may result in localized extinction as Coconut crab and Sea
turtle can both be found on Cocos Island and easily taken due to the lack of adequate law enforcement. Furthermore,
due to its small size, the koko or Guam rail (Gallarallus owstoni) would not be hunted for food, but more as a novelty
item and to keep as pets. Moreover, the koko is naturally nave and curious and somewhat easy to catch, facilitating
poaching by humans. Additionally, the resort operates Jungle tours via open-air caravans or go-carts. If the drivers of
these vehicles are not careful, wildlife can be hit. For a species like the Guam rail, this is a highly plausible cause of
Second, with increased visitors to the resort and the public park, increased waste disposal problems can arise
directly effecting the environment. The resort has already been working on cleaning up their dump area through more
frequent removal of garbage via regular use of their barge. Additionally, they have been urged to recycle and use
products with less packaging to reduce the refuse on the island. Now a recycling program exists in its infancy stage. An
indirect consequence of piled up garbage is the creation of favorable habitat for pests such as rats.
Additionally, the public park where anyone can camp is also of concern. Since this area is not regulated on a
continuous basis, visitors at times, take advantage of the site. On occasion, this site has been found littered with
garbage, beer cans and sometimes used fishing equipment. While the garbage on the beach is unsightly to humans it
could pose direct physical threats to wildlife as obstacles in the water or on land, mistaken prey. Furthermore
continued use of this particular site could result in compaction or tramping of soil around the campsite, unrestricted
collection of wood for campfires and accumulation of biological waste could increase and not only decrease the
aesthetic value of the physical environment but directly impact environmental health as well. Increased tourism may
also affect migratory bird species through the loss of perching and roosting spots if trees and branches are haphazardly
cut down by campers for camp fires on the public park side of the island. Moreover, if fire safety is not practiced, then
wildlife will be affected by loss of habitat due to wild fires. Even though current data does not indicate an increase use
of this site; the potential for increase use does exist especially during the height of fishing seasons.
Third, while most archeological sites on Cocos Island are subsurface, the potential for direct disturbance exists.
Known sites are not usually in reach of visitors from the resort however, shards of pottery are often found uncovered on
the beaches. It is unlawful to remove artifacts from their original sites but, with increased foot traffic on the island, it is
inevitable that ancient artifacts will be taken home as souvenirs. Also, shells, fossils and star sand, if taken in large
quantities, will also directly impact the environment and ruin the aesthetics of the beach.
Finally, there are no rats, cats or snakes currently on Cocos Island. With increased visitors to Cocos Island, the
chances of pests re-colonizing Cocos Island is great. Without their knowledge, people and boats can harbor pests and
inadvertently bring them to Cocos Island. If boats and people are harboring these animals either on purpose or as
stowaways and are released on Cocos Island, devastation can ensue. Not only would wildlife be in direct danger of
predators these pests eat birds, bird eggs, lizard and sea turtle eggs and can carry diseases as well. The flightless Guam
rail would be easy prey for these predators. A small island overrun with rats and snakes would be detrimental to
humans, would not be appealing for tourism and may result in monetary losses for the resort.
Sensitive resources
In contrast to the majority of Guam, Cocos Island is a haven for bird life. While Black and brown noddies (Anous
minutes, Anous stolidus) as well as White fairy terns (Gygis alba) are not endangered or threatened they are migratory
sea bird species and are found in great number on Cocos Island. The Micronesian Starling (Aplonis opaca guami), or sali
in Chamorro, is locally endangered and found only within one other site on mainland Guam besides Cocos Island. On
Cocos, the sali have found refuge to congregate and multiply. With the absence of predators such as rats, cats and
snakes, Cocos Island is now the only place on Guam where the endemic, endangered Guam rail can be seen in the wild.
This flightless bird is easy prey and therefore intensive management and enforcement of laws and regulations for its
protection is warranted. Other avian species, still found in the northern islands of the Marianas archipelago are being
researched as possible candidates for release on Cocos Island in the future.
As previously discussed in other assignments the Green sea turtle and Coconut crab are two food species that
potential could decrease in population size due to increase tourism. Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricate) are also
found in Guams waters but not frequently. The Green sea turtle is endangered and protected by federal and territory
laws while harvesting of Coconut crab is regulated. Enforcement of these rules and regulations comes under the
jurisdiction of Guam Department of Agriculture however sufficient funding for staff and equipment is lacking for the
level of enforcement needed to ensure adequate protection for the future.
Historically, Cocos Island housed more native lizard populations than anywhere else on Guam, approximately 12
species have been found. Among these, Perochirus ateles or Dumeril's Tropical Gecko/ Micronesian gecko has been
captured and identified; this is a species which is rarely seen on mainland Guam. Biannual surveys for lizards has been
conducted to monitor interactions with koko as lizards are a prey source for this species.
Finally, mature native trees on Guam are a rare sight due to disease, invasive species, inadequate knowledge,
lack of information and neglect. The Ifit tree or (Intsia bijuga) is one of these species. As a hardwood, is it prized for
construction of canoes as well as homes. Mature ifit trees are no longer a common sight on Guam due to pests and
overharvesting. On Cocos Island, one specimen still persists. Moreover, Guam is overrun by an invasive tree called
tangan-tangan (Leucaena leucocephala). Purposely seeded on Guam after the bombings of WWII to prevent soil
erosion, tangan-tangan is now the most common tree found on Guam. Although it adds a tasty flavor for barbeque if
used as kindling, this tree has snuffed out native plant life. On Cocos Island, the native variety of this plant exists and is
kept in check along the ocean facing side. It is believed, this plant is unique and only found on Cocos Island. It was also
used in canoe making and therefore prized within the community.

Environmental and Visitor Indicators
Two environmental indicators that Cocos Island Resort should focus upon:
1. Sightings of terrestrial wildlife, as reported through guest surveys - Based on the species, wildlife surveys are
conducted as much as every other day to once a year. For example, to monitor the behavior, especially the
breeding behavior, of the endangered Guam rail (Gallarallus owstoni); these radio-tagged birds are survey every
other day. Lizards and geckos are surveyed twice a year to monitor possible predation rates by the rail. The
large flocks of seabirds are counted during Spring bird counts but observed everyday to monitor for signs of
predation or loss through other means.
Specific indicator: Number of Guam rails encountered in the forest
Standard: With time, it is projected that if the rails are productive in a pest- free
environment, visitors should be able to encounter at least 1 rail on known heavily used
trails. These birds are somewhat nave, gregarious and fecund. With more time, the
population of rails should increase enabling more chances of encounters. Guam
Department of Agriculture will monitor these birds.

Specific indicator: Number of locally endangered Micronesian Starlings (Aplonis opaca
guami) encountered in the forest.
Standard: Sightings by visitors of less than 75% will warrant investigation of their
population behavior and dynamics by Guam Department of Agriculture. These birds are
extremely curious and consistently seen perching or calling on the resort grounds. They
often follow people in the forests.

2. Visible healthy reefs as evidenced by abundance of marine life as reported through guest surveys - Although
Cocos Lagoon is not part of a Marine Preserve Area, it is adjacent to the Achang Reef Flat Preserve, administered
by Guam Department of Agriculture, Fisheries Division. Therefore spill over of marine life is expected in Cocos
Specific indicator: Number, size and diversity of reef fish as reported by Cocos Island Resort
guests utilizing snorkeling and diving vendors.
Standard: An increase of at least 10% in number, size and diversity of fish is expected
through visitor surveys when compared to surveys of other more heavily used/polluted
waters. Decreases in population or obvious signs of reef damage should be reported to the
Fisheries Division of Guam Department of Agriculture.

Specific indicator: Number of Green Sea turtles (Chelonia midas) seen either in the water
during the ferry ride to Cocos Island.
Standard: Populations of sea turtle counted on a weekly basis by biologists or trained
volunteers have shown that sea turtle populations low but relatively constant on and
around Cocos Island. Therefore, at least one turtle sighting per week from the visitor ferry is
expected. No sightings over long periods of time should be reported to Guam Department
of Agriculture.

Specific indicator: Evidence of nesting sea turtles on Cocos Islands beaches.
Standard: Sea turtle nesting activity (nests, crawls, tracks, false nesting attempts) is
expected to be seen on Cocos Islands beaches seasonally, especially on or near the Resort
area. Currently at least 2 sea turtles have been known to return every year to nest.
Therefore, visitor exposure to these nesting signs should occur twice during the year. Guam
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries Division should be contacted when evidence of nesting
is observed or if an actively nesting Sea turtle is encountered.
Two environmental indicators that Cocos Island Resort should focus upon:
1. Litter at public side of Cocos Island as evidenced by Cocos Island Resort- Litter not only provides habitat for
pests such as rats to flourish but is unsightly to visitors and guests. Since there is no funding for regular
checks for campsite cleanliness at the public park side of Cocos Island, ongoing public awareness and self
policing of behaviors must suffice for now to manage litter.
Cocos Island conducts an island circuit inspection in the morning before visitors arrive.
Specific indicator: Garbage cans at the public park campsite will be emptied by
Cocos Island Resort as well as cursory inspection of cleanliness.
Standard: Excessive garbage (overflowing garbage cans, trash and debris on the
beach or reef) found at the public park campsite more than 25% of the time during
peak use (weekend, holiday or height of specific fishing seasons) will require
intervention or new management regulations by Guam Department of Parks and
Recreation. Further action by temporarily restricting fishing may help to curb
excessive use and unresponsive changes in public behavior.

Specific indicator: Visitor responses on Exit survey/questionnaire
Standard: A 25% dissatisfaction rating from visitors to the island regarding overall
cleanliness will require cooperative action by the resort and Government of Guam
to resolve trash removal and policing of campsites.

2. Crowding issues at Cocos Island Resort During certain times of the year, Cocos Island receives a large
amount of visitors. Amenities at the resort as well as solitude in the forests may be compromised due to the
incapacity to handle the visitor increases.
Coordination of tour vendors, bus drivers and ferry operators to maximize ferry transport to
Cocos Island.
Specific indicator: Ferry capacity during scheduled runs to Cocos Island.
Standard: 6 out of 8 scheduled ferries must depart on time everyday and not be
more than 80% full for customer satisfaction and comfort as reported by Ferry staff
and Visitor Exit Survey.

Wait time for desired water sport activity.
Specific indicator: The length of time that a visitor waits to partake in their chosen
water sport activity.
Standard: Wait times should not be longer than 5 minutes, as reported through
Visitor Exit Surveys and Resort staff. Improvements by the vendor must be made or
another vendor is hired to handle the overflow if wait times exceed this limit during
high tourist seasons.

Crowding in wilderness areas.
Specific indicator: Number of people met on trails outside the resort area
Standard: Visitors should meet no more than 3 people per hour on hiking trails
outside the resort property, as reported via Visitor Exit Surveys. If this limit is
exceeded than Resort management must consider limiting, spacing or rerouting
hikers to compensate increased tourist numbers.

Communities and Empowerment
Merizo is the southernmost village where one can ride a boat to Cocos Island. The village covers an area of 6
square miles (16 km
) and is located on the shore below the volcanic hills of southern Guam, part of the Haya (Southern)
District. The village derives its name from the word lesso. Lesso is the next growth size of the juvenile rabbit fish
locally known as manahak and these were caught at the mouth of the bay of that village. This small historic village was
home of the ancient Chamorros who lived along the shores of the bay and fished for a living in the abundant sea.
Merizo is Guam's second oldest Spanish settlement. Several WWII memorial sites are preserved in this village.
Today, Merizo is the weekend watersport capital of Guam. There are power boats and other watersport crafts
for rent near the Merizo pier and the bay offers fishing, diving and waterskiing. The pier is also a great fishing spot.
Several popular dive sites are located off Merizo's coast. Furthermore Cocos Island Resort hosts two annual village
events: the Cocos Cup (kite-boarding, windsurfing, etc.) and the Cocos Crossing (2.5km swim from CIR to Merizo Pier).
Finally, Fiestan Tasi (Festival of the Sea) is held annually and celebrates the importance of the ocean to Guams past,
present and future. It often includes boat races and other water sports competitions and exhibitions.
Currently, the village remains primarily residential as the residents have cautiously viewed any prospect of
extensive development. Commerce is limited to the privately owned Cocos Island Resort and its ancillary vendors, and to
a few small village-based retail stores, a gas station, and a branch of the Bank of Guam. According to the 2000 Census by
the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, the population of the village is 2,163 and climbing slowly.
Positive and negative socio-cultural impacts of nature-based tourism to local residents
Possible positive socio-cultural impacts as a result of nature-based tourism at Cocos Island for local residents include:
- Reconnection to native species, culture and closing/connecting gaps within generations A whole generation
has grown up on Guam with virtually no knowledge with their native species or experience with an intact
ecosystem. With increased access to native species, the young generation can experience what their elders only
remember. This in turn helps to bring generations together and engender commonality that will bind families
together. As the Chamorro people are known as Taotaotano or the People of the Land in the Chamorro
language, reconnecting and exposure with a whole forest system will also increase causing a Chamorro cultural
renaissance that is much needed to keep small island cultures alive in a time of increasing world homogeneity.

- Increased ownership of natural resources It is hoped with a new appreciation for natural resources, pride will
help to keep native wildlife thriving, especially those that are threatened and endangered. Activist or specialty
group formations, such as youth groups will hopefully take initiative and ownership of environmental concerns
within their community.

- Increased standard of living this would be most obvious in the form of more employment opportunities and
wage increases as a result of increased revenue from increased visitor numbers at Cocos Island. With an influx
of more visitors, opportunities to open new business ventures are available to the local community. With the
availability for more funding for the village, surrounding infrastructure projects such as paving roads and
upgrading community centers can become possibilities.
Possible negative socio-cultural impacts due to nature-based tourism at Cocos Island effecting local residents include:
- Dilution of culture to make it attractive to tourists with increased tourist numbers at Cocos and travelling
through Merizo, it is possible that to make historical/cultural aspects more palatable or understandable to
foreign tourists, concepts could be watered-down. This dilution could be detrimental to the culture if
important traditions are not passed down from one generation to the next.

- Conflict with regulatory authorities and particular project plans if the community is not consulted at every
stage of planning of the tourism venture, then confusion, misunderstanding and unrest can result causing
fractions in the community and mistrust of regulatory agencies.

- Current nature-based livelihoods at risk of restrictions if nature-based tourism projects do not include the
participation of the local community, traditional livelihoods can be placed in jeopardy or restricted. For
example, there are many subsistence fishermen that live in the village of Merizo that believed that Cocos Lagoon
would be permanently closed to fishing and made into a reserve. After many conversations it was explained that
only a temporary unenforced restriction would take place during the rodent eradication phase of Cocos Island
restoration efforts to provide an additional safe guard against possible secondary rat poison exposure.

- Corruption due to greed or increased status If increases in economic gains are shared unequally amongst the
community, a breakdown in community and social order can result or exaggerate other social problems such as
alcohol, drugs and theft.

- Displacement of local population due to inability to pay for increased standards of living With an improved
standard of living, more taxes, increased prices and unaffordable real estate may change the structure of the
existing community. Merizo in particular is known as an undeveloped village which retains much of its rural
charm. Increased development would bring crowding, traffic and infrastructure that may or may not add to the
village ambiance that characterizes Merizo.
Application of Scheyvens empowerment framework
The following considerations regarding the impact of nature-based tourism on the village of Merizo should include:
Economic empowerment
- In regards to Cocos Island Resort, it would result in more guests and therefore more revenue
- In regards to the village of Merizo, it could result in the form of more employment opportunities either with the
resort or with a supporting vendor as well as increased wages and tips.
- The surrounding village of Merizo also has the opportunity to gain more revenue for village infrastructure
- Other tourism ventures could be possible, for example the Guam Visitors Bureau and Guam Department of
Forestry is working on an ecotourism venture regarding the replanting of native trees in the village
Economic disempowerment
- If revenues are not shared by the resort, then increased friction between the resort and local community could
- The inability to use resources as practiced before nature-based tourism protection laws were enacted (such as
limitations to fishing and harvesting of wildlife)

Psychological empowerment
- Increased pride in native wildlife, which can result in increased stewardship of natural resources.
- More schools and students engaged with their environment
- Reconnection of older generations with their natural surroundings
- Willingness of local community to participate in release fiesta (celebration) for koko or other native species
introduction efforts
Psychological disempowerment
- Perceived restrictions cause friction between local communities and governmental agencies.
- Elders not understanding or scared of the use of new technology, ex. Use of rat poison and its effects.
- Confusion in regards to how to conserve natural resources, ex. Poachers illegally harvesting sea turtle or
coconut crab from Cocos Island.

Social empowerment
- If the resort gives back to the community, then improved infrastructure should result
- Pride for natural resources will take the form of community unity to support projects like beach cleanups or
- Acceptance of the community to support local government conservation efforts or projects
Social disempowerment
- Some resentment from the old mayor toward the new mayor, also seen in some dissention between older
and younger generations fighting the will to change or compromise and remain with traditional ways
- Increased access to drugs and alcohol due to increases in disposable incomes

Political empowerment
- Public meetings held to hear community opinions, concerns and ideas in regards to the particular project
- Hotline implemented for 24/7 public access to updated information regarding conservation projects
- Opportunity for the community to submit written comments on proposed project plans.
- Legislative hearing held to address community concerns of rat poison used on Cocos Island.
Political disempowerment
- At the moment, no community board set for Coocs Island Project via Government of Guam
- Community moved on to larger issues, example the Military buildup

The potential for rural tourism development
Cocos Island has limited but important natural resources. However the possibility to expand the nature tourism
experience from the outlying island to the surrounding village. Unfortunately, there are very few large scale farms left
on Guam. One existing tourism attraction is Hamamotos Tropical Fruit World in the village of Yona, in the south central
part of the island. With over 70 different varieties of fruit, they unfortunately do not produce on a large scale as no
market exists for them on the island. And although a local rate exists to attract a local clientele, unfortunately there is
no interest. Furthermore, small family gardens and ranches exist especially in the southern villages of Guam. The Guam
Visitors Bureau has had an ongoing campaign to get visitors into the villages for firsthand experiences of fiestas and
garden tours. Therefore the potential for tourism opportunities exist but are limited by interest and coordinating
Alternatively, several different tour packages could be created if the assets of Guams other southern villages
(Inarajan, Talofofo, Umatac and Agat) are also taken into consideration. It would be quite easy to create tours
highlighting the cultural, historical, natural and agricultural resources of the Southern half of Guam and package that
together with a visit to Cocos Island. The surrounding Southern villages of Guam already have a few tourist spots of
interests that include beach resorts, restaurants, a river cruise, golf courses and sailing.
Potential beneficial partnerships
In the last few years, Cocos Island Resort has sought the assistance of local environmental groups to help clean
up habitat. These include iRecycle, the Boy Scouts as well has high school environmental groups such as Marine Mania
and the Sharks. Having one of these groups lead efforts for recycling and beach cleanups would not only benefit the
island, be pleasing to the tourists but relieve some of the burden from the overtaxed management as well.
Coordination of vessel inspections for pest harborage, while at the moment are coordinated by Guam Dept. of
Agriculture, should eventually be the resort or the individual vendors responsibility. With time, growing pride and a shift
in responsibility is expected as success of the project continues.
Media exposure would also benefit from a dedicated and trusted media contact. More positive media exposure
would also benefit the resort and help to reaffirm good relationships with the surrounding community.
Recreation Setting Component
Desired environmental resource benefits include:
Protect existing locally endangered Micronesian starling population and thereby increasing reproduction
Protect existing seabird roosting areas and thereby increasing reproduction potential
Protect existing sea turtle nesting habitat and thereby increasing reproduction potential
Protect introduced Guam rail population and thereby increasing reproduction potential
Enhance native forest habitat that can withstand natural occurrences such as typhoons and washovers.
Remove invasive plant species to allow native species to regenerate
Eradicate pests and create pest-free area for native species to flourish
Continue biosecurity to protect against future incursions of invasive species.

Desired visitors recreational experiences and benefits include:
Create litter-free and therefore pest-free island for better visitor experience
Help resort create environmental outreach program to highlight Guam native flora and fauna existing on Cocos
Island, but more importantly on resort property.
Increase personal encounters with Cocos Islands native species by ensuring species survival.
Increase environmental awareness through signage and special programs
Increase pride in culture through increased understanding and stewardship of Cocos Island
Increase opportunity for the local community to experience native species through special local rate
Create cleaner camping areas on Cocos Island

Existing recreation setting components
Existing physical setting
Cocos Island Resort can be categorized as Concentrated as per ROS guidelines. Cocos Island Resort generates
electricity via a diesel generator and fresh potable water is produced by a reverse osmosis desalinization unit.
Structures include: reception building, locker room building, restaurant building, pool, maintenance office and shop
building, generator and reverse osmosis building/waste water treatment building and marine rental equipment/snack
bar building. The resort pier is located approximately 195m off the shore, and is connected to the island via a 5m wide
elevated concrete walkway.
Aquatic recreation dominates the activities offered by the resort, including: swimming, jet-ski, banana boat,
wake board, para-sailing, Seawalker (helmeted ocean floor exploration), Scuba Bob (helmeted scooter-type exploration)
and introductory scuba diving. Terrestrial activities available include sunbathing, dune buggy rides, bird watching and
casual walks around the island. Available amenities include a souvenir shop, ice cream parlor, snack bar and restaurant.
/the resort hosts two annual events: the Cocos Cup (kite-boarding, windsurfing, etc.) and the Cocos Crossing (2.5km
swim from Cocos Island to Merizo Pier). The resort contains an exotic bird aviary, managed by a private individual.
Cocos Island Resort leases property in Merizo from 2 private parties to support their operations. The Hambley
pier is used to dock the ferries and support boats. The Acfalle building and pier serve multiple purposes: security office,
dry goods warehouse, maintenance warehouse, Scuba Bob equipment storage, Elmar Dive Corporation offices and
staging area for tourists while waiting for ferries (upper level). A private company is contracted to provide security
services on the resort and the Hambley Pier area, 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, with one guard stationed on CIR from
5:00pm to 8:00am daily.
Cocos Island supports breeding populations of native wildlife species, including the locally endangered
Micronesian starling (Aplonis opaca), native lizards and seabirds and is a prime nesting site for federally threatened
green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas). Also since November 2011, Guam rails (Gallarallus owstoni) now exist on the island
as well.
Social setting
Cocos Island is a 33.6-ha atoll-like island located 2.5 km southwest of Guam. The island is 1.93 km long and 0.15
km wide. The northeastern 24.8-ha of the island (approximately two-thirds) is privately owned and managed by CIR.
The remaining 8.8-ha is a park managed by Guam Department of Parks and Recreation. Cocos Island Resort is a daytime
only operation that primarily caters to tourists with limited local clients. The public park currently sees limited use,
concentrated during certain time of the fishing season. The sights and sounds of people are readily evident, and the
concentration of users can be moderate to high.
Managerial regulation and control
Visitors to Cocos Island Resort are currently limited by outside tour agencies acting as intermediate vendors.
The resort relies on outside advertising and tour group coordination. However, upon arrival to the resort, visitors are
brought to the Activity center where Resort staff provides information and services catering to the visitor.
Furthermore, although threatened and endangered native species are found on Cocos Island, strict rules and
regulations directly impacting visitors behaviors are rarely enforced due to lack of funding and manpower. As a result,
indirect control in the use of educational signage, brochures and outreach events for both staff and the general public
are employed periodically.
Demarketing, Proposed zoning changes, and Maps
Increased tourist numbers will increase existing environmental impacts. Demarketing in the form of an increase in
fees will help to regulate visitor numbers and can be imposed during the height of tourist season, concurrently with local
holidays or even as a standard increase. Examples of fees can include:
- Entrance/ferry fee for Cocos Island Resort For locals, the rate is somewhat high however, to access the island
via the public park side; it is free if they provide their own transportation. The establishment of an affordable local
rate can should be put in place to facilitate not only more business for the resort but accessibility of the community
to the natural resources on the island.

- Specialty user fees (individual fees for aquatic recreation) these are primarily for paying foreign visitors wanting
a day of water activities. Vendors can be found at Cocos Island Resort but also independent vendors exist within
the surrounding village of Merizo. Competitive prices for mainland vendors can spur economy within the
community. However, this revenue would most likely still be tourist based, as many within the community already
have access to the water via personal watercraft.

- Camp permit this is a fee paid by anyone wanting to camp on the public side of Cocos Island. This is a small
fee that is unfortunately rarely checked or collected. If enforcement of this fee were to increase, there could be
some public disagreement however; the number of users and fee prices are both low and affordable for the
average local community member.

- Special catch permit via Guam Department of Agriculture Throughout the year, fishing within the nearby Achang
Reef flat marine preserve may be opened for cultural fishing and regulated through the local regulating agency to
the local community. While, there are no fees associated with these special fishing seasons, participation is
heavily regulated and has caused backlash within the community. These hard feelings can be carried over into
many different and unrelated conservation efforts causing conflict and distrust amongst community and local

- Tourism tax at the moment, Guam has no sales tax and is a duty free port. While these are attractive to visitors,
there is much more potential if these taxes were increased slightly. It is recommended that an increase to all
tourism fees throughout the island (lodging, transport, food, etc) be considered as an increase has not happened
in a long time. It would be advantageous to coordinate this increase with the impending military buildup to take
advantage of the increase in visitors to all of Guams tourism attractions and concessions.
The advertisement of desired resource use such as the use of trash or recycling receptacles will aid to preserve
habitat. Finally, coordinating marketing efforts with agencies such as the Guam Visitors Bureau will aid in the timely
broadcasting of information when trails, amenities or camping site must be closed or re-routed.
The current layout of Cocos Island demarcates the areas where tourism activities are concentrated (primarily within
resort property) and the areas where wilderness experiences can occur (the public park property). Therefore reducing
the footprint of the resort will result in the increase of wild, uncultivated areas capable of sustaining native flora and
fauna. Increases in native wildlife interaction and habitat will increase visitor satisfaction of ecotourism on Cocos Island.
Thus the proposed following zoning changes within Cocos Island Resort property will help to lessen the impact of
increased tourism and increase visitor satisfaction:
1. Remove outbuildings that have little use to current operations to increase green space for wildlife and people.
This includes abandoned buildings in the maintenance area of the resort (Area 1 in map below).

2. Reduce resort ornamental horticulture and replace with native flowering trees and shrubs. This action will help
to increase native forest habitat for wildlife, wildlife interaction and recreation for guests such as hiking. The
resort has planted many non-native ornamental trees, flowers, shrubs and bushes. Guam Department of
Agriculture, Forestry Department has been working with the resort to replace their plantings with more native
flowering trees. Ultimately area 1 (in map below) should be reduced and replaced with either area 2 or 3.

3. Enact a moratorium on any new road/trail clearings and insist on maintenance of existing roads instead. There
are very few roads currently on Cocos Island (see map below). New roads or trails should be prohibited to
preserve continuous, intact habitat and not cause fragmentation. Maintaining current roads and trails would
allow for smooth traffic flow, reduce disturbance to habitat and wildlife and increase visitor satisfaction.

With alterations and constant dialogue with all affected stakeholders, Cocos Island would be a good candidate
for sustainable nature-based tourism. While landowners already safeguard against threats to the islands native wildlife,
the resort must harden their operations to become truly eco-friendly to positively impact both tourists and the local
community. Tourists and vendors are still throwing away large amounts of packaging and other trash in the course of
their daily activities. The resort will benefit from the implementation of recycling processes and more green standards.
Providing visitors with biodegradable toilets and boxed lunches in reusable containers will not only generate less refuse
but encourage visitors to go for a hike or picnic and enjoy the protected flora and fauna.
Furthermore, while a majority of the local community is employed on the island, the impact of the resort to
benefit the larger surrounding community is negligible. The community benefits in the form of salaries for locals,
however there is no furtherance for the development of mutually beneficial relationships between tourist and locals. To
rectify this disparity, increased opportunities to present local traditions, customs or other aspects of Chamorro culture
to guests in the form of cultural shows, demonstrations or marketing of local handicrafts will greatly improve the
sustainability of livelihoods, culture and traditions while generating income for the resort.
Finally if Cocos Island can be managed to simultaneously provide opportunities to enhance both the use and
environmental protection roles of natural resources as well as meet the recreational access/use and wildlife/habitat
protection needs then nature-based tourism will be deemed successful. Furthermore, tourist attractions should not
only benefit the visitor but also the host community. Sustainable nature-based tourism will be successful if Cocos Island
Resort can foster mutually beneficial relationships between its guests and the local community of Merizo.