Fishermen Meet to Discuss Stock Assessment Results
From February 1, 2014 meeting at Happy Fish Market, Palau. Photo S. Victor.
The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resource Environment and Tourism (MNRET) and the Senate Committee on Tourism organized a meeting with the fishermen and members of the Belau Boaters Association at Happy Fish Market on February 1,2014. The purpose of the meeting was to present the results of the bumphead parrotfish (kemedukl) and humphead wrasse (maml) stock assessment, and the study to determine size at maturity for fish, and to hold an initial discussion on re-establishing fishermen associations in Palau.
Dr. Yimnang Golbuu at Happy Fish Market, Palau. Photo S. Victor.
Dr. Yimnang Golbuu presented results from the stock assessment and “Willingness to Pay” survey for kemedukl and maml in Palau. The study was funded by The Nature Conservancy and implemented by Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) in collaboration with MNRET and Dr. Alan Friedlander from the University of Hawaii. Results of the study show that there are an estimated 61,000 kemedukl and 37,000 maml found within Palau’s main reefs. The populations are still recovering from the previous overexploitation.
The study recommends that if harvest is allowed, an annual catch quota of 487 individuals for kemedukl and 129 individuals for maml be implemented to allow for sustainable harvest and continued recovery of both species. These annual catch quotas would bring the fishery value of both fish to about $26,000 annually. The result of the willingness to pay shows that maml ranked no. 5 and kemedukl no. 6 as preferred animals that tourists come to Palau to see.
The results of the willingness to pay study further showed that a tourist was willing to pay $11.80 more compared to the current price of diving if both fish were managed well and they were even willing to pay $38 more if both fish continued to be closed. These scenarios present a tourism value for both fish of between $1.1-$3.8 based on an estimated average annual arrival of 100,000 tourists to Palau.
In a separate presentation, Steven Victor of The Nature Conservancy presented the results of studies being conducted to determine the size maturity for fish, or size at which a fish is old enough to reproduce. The study is being conducted with fishermen from Ngarchelong and Kayangel. Results of the study show that 60% of fish being captured have not had a chance to reproduce or contribute to the population before being caught. The study validates what fishermen today have been seeing in their catch composition – that they are catching smaller fish. A fish needs to grow to a certain size before they can reproduce, and this size is different for different kinds of fish. A fish needs to reproduce for at least 20% of its lifetime reproductive capacity to maintain a stable population and more than 20% for the population to grow. Therefore, establishing a minimum size limit that allows for a fish to at least reproduce 20% is necessary for sustainable harvest.
MNRET Minister Umiich Sengebau at Happy Fish Market, Palau.
Photo S. Victor.
Minister Umiich Sengebau of MNRET then discussed the need for the science to support policy. He further stated that management policy needs to be at a regulatory level rather than at the legislative level. This allows for the Ministry to act quickly in revising a regulation that is responsive to the available scientific information and with input from the fishermen.