PICRC Researcher, Shirley Koshiba, completes her Masters in Environmental Sciences

Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) researcher, Ms. Shirley Koshiba, the daughter of Fritz and Martha Koshiba, has completed her Master’s Degree in Environmental Sciences focusing on Socio-economics from the University of Tsukuba in Japan. In 2016, Ms. Koshiba received a full scholarship through the Master’s and Internship Program of the Pacific Leaders’ Educational Assistance for Development of States (Pacific-LEADS), a scholarship program of the Government of Japan.

Throughout her program, Ms. Koshiba worked under the supervision of Professor Takeshi Mizunoya, an expert in environmental economics, to conduct research on Palau’s tourism-driven economy. A heavy reliance on tourism can be burdensome for such a small island nation. To address this burden, Palau initiated the Green Fee – or the Palau Pristine Environment Fee (as it has recently been renamed). This tax was implemented to offset some of the impacts that come from increased tourism by shifting from mass tourism to high-end tourism.

While measures have been implemented to address some of the increasing pressures on Palau’s environment, there is a lack of information on the tourism industry’s response to policy changes, particularly regarding increased environmental fees. Through her research, Ms. Koshiba found that increasing the tax would reduce the number of visitors to Palau. While fewer visitors would lead to a reduction in environmental pollutants, it would also reduce the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) gradually. Ms. Koshiba also found that Palau’s GDP is very sensitive to the changes in visitor numbers, which correlates with changes to the environmental tax. This research highlights the importance of maximizing economic benefits to strengthen Palau’s economy, while minimizing environmental pollution for sustainable development of Palau.

“Capacity building is one of our core value,” shares PICRC CEO, Dr. Yimnang Golbuu. “We continuously seek out opportunities for our staff to pursue higher education, and Shirley is a great example of staff development at the Center. We are grateful to the government of Japan for providing this opportunity to our staff.  The new capacity gained with the return of Shirley will make the Center more effective and efficient in its work to meet the research needs of Palau.”