Opening another Jellyfish Lake might not be a good idea and would expose another lake to the same risks as the first, according to a research biologist from the Coral Reef Research Foundation (CRRF).
Palau Visitors’ Authority Chairman of the Board Ngirai Tmetuchl earlier called for second Lake containing the same golden species of jellyfish to be opened to public to allow the first one to “heal.”
CRRF’s Research Biologist Patris in an interview last week said that although “there is no correlation between the jellyfish numbers and the number of tourists, visitors can introduce invasive species in the lake “that can change or harm the lake.”
Patris said opening a second lake might not be a good idea, because “you are just opening another lake to the same problems as the first one.”
The call for opening of another lake was raised after the jellyfish in the famous lake completely disappeared at the end of El Nino event in 2016.
However Patris said since 2018 the lake water has been cooling down and the jellyfish numbers are increasing.
“It will take some time for jellyfish numbers to return to “normal numbers’ of five to eight million as long as the waters continue to stay cool, “ Patris said.
Following the El Nino that impact the Jellyfish population in 1998, the jellyfish population in 2000 rose to around 20 million.
Although a ‘Bul” or the traditional ban was imposed after the disappearance of the jellyfish, it was never officially closed by Koror State, the resource owner of the lake. Tour operators however heeded the call and stopped taking visitors to the lake because there was nothing for the tourists to see.
However Koror State sees visitors returning following the increase in jellyfish numbers.
“The jellyfish are returning, tourists are visiting again,” Dora Benhart, the outreach officer of Koror State’s conservation department said.
But Benhart said Koror State is strictly enforcing rules about the use of sunscreen at the lake saying it must be applied more than 30 minutes before entering the water and the Koror State Rangers and CRRF said reminds visitors “ to use only reef safe or environmentally friendly sunscreen that does not contain oxybenzone and a list of 10 other chemicals earlier banned by Palau.
Although an earlier study showed that there is no link between sunscreen and decrease in jellyfish numbers, Benhart said they wanted to make sure that visitors do not negatively impact the lake.
Koror State said clothes worn by visitors should be thoroughly rinsed before swimming to eliminate the risk of taking “invasive species” into the lake. Visitors should also not carry any rocks, shells, algae or living organism from the lagoon into the lake to the prevent the introduction of non-native species.
Patris added there was a similar fall in jellyfish numbers in 1998 linked to an El Nino event and data showed “the jellyfish did not disappear because of sunscreen rather conditions associated with El Nino event. (Bernadette H. Carreon)