A new report released by PICRC showed results of their fish populations monitoring in the Northern Reef of Palau from 2015-2017.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), seafood is of extreme importance in Palau as it is not only a main source of protein, but it is also plays a role in the economy of the country providing employment, increasing tourism and promoting the exportation of the good. Given the weight that fishing has on the development of the country, its exploitation needs to be managed to ensure sustainable fisheries for the younger generations.
Since the mid-1970s, Palauans have noticed that fish numbers have been decreasing. As a result, a consensus was reached among fishermen, community leaders and researchers restricting the fishing of several species. At the same time, other measures were taken to manage fisheries by granting fishing licensing and establishing no-take zones.
After monitoring the fish density in protected and non-protected areas between the years of 2015 and 2017, research at the PICRC shows that there are no significant changes in the overall fish biomass. There were, however, some differences observed at very specific sites, such as Kayangel Island, where the fish biomass appeared to increase from 2015-2017.
According to a study made by MacNeil et al. (2015), it takes between 35-59 years to restore the fish biomass after establishing fishing restrictions. Given that many of the new fishing regulations did not go into effect until mid-2016 and mid-2017, researchers at the PICRC think that this might be one reason why the study shows not significant changes in fish biomass.
It is fortunate that the communities of Ngarchelong and Kayangel States took measures to preserve fish biomass and passed a legislation to protect 14 fish species. At the same time, PICRC researchers encourage the communities to continue these efforts as it will not only increase fish biomass, but it will also promote coral growth in the Northern Reef which was greatly affected in 2012 by Typhoon Bopha and in 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan. In the years to come, PICRC researchers will continue to monitor the effect that fishing regulations have on fish biomass.