Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) researchers, Marine Gouezo and Lincy Lee Marino, presented results and recommendations from research studies conducted in Airai State to the Airai State Medal Ngediull Conservation Area Protected Areas Network (PAN) Site Review and Advisory Council. One of the most important recommendation is to employ stricter regulations on development in order to stem the flow of sedimentation to the near-shore ocean habitats, which is thought to be the main reason for the decline in all ecological indicators in the marine protected area (MPA). By installing stricter enforcement on erosion control measures, the sedimentation levels and water quality could improve and relieve chronic stresses on seagrass beds and coral reefs in and around the Ngerikill Watershed and Medal Ngediull Conservation Area.
The meeting was held on November 19, 2018 at Airai State. The PAN Site Review and Advisory Council is made up of traditional leaders, citizens, and experts from various environmental agencies in Palau who are hand-picked by Governor Tmewang Rengulbai.
Ms. Marine Gouezo presented on the status and trends of the coral reefs and seagrass beds in Airai State based on findings from PICRC’s ecological monitoring efforts since 2002. Additionally, Ms. Gouezo gave an overview of the ecological status of the Medal Ngediull Conservation Area. The findings presented to the Council demonstrate the steady decline in seagrass species coverage since 2011 and the unusual low numbers of edible macro-invertebrates within reef flats of the MPA and reference area. Furthermore, PICRC showed a significant decline of commercially-valued reef fish species abundance and biomass in the lagoon reefs of the conservation area between 2015 and 2017.
Ms. Marino presented results of the socioeconomic baseline survey of Airai State residents, which was conducted in 2016. Ms. Marino shared the Airai residents’ knowledge and views of the Medal Ngediull, according to results from the socioeconomic baseline survey. The study suggests that the majority of residents of Airai State are aware of and support the conservation area. Additionally, residents report that they are not seeing much of an impact to their livelihoods as a result of their MPA. This can be taken as a positive statement as this means that the MPA closure is not having a negative effect on the lives of the people of Airai State.
Since the purpose of the Airai State Review and Advisory Council is to gather relevant information from partners in order to revise the existing Protected Areas Network site management plan, Ms. Gouezo and Ms. Marino shared recommendations to the Council which, hopefully, will help strengthen the upcoming management plan for the Medal Ngediull Conservation Area. (PR)