In 2015, the Government of Palau made a promise to protect 500 thousand square kilometers of ocean by 2020 through the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) Act. With the enactment of the PNMS, Palau aims to reclaim its pelagic fisheries while easing the pressures on nearshore fish stocks. A new technical report released by Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) addresses knowledge gaps in the potential socio-economic impacts of the PNMS and suggests next steps to ensure the success of the Sanctuary. This project was led by Dr. Kirsten Oleson from the University of Hawaii with support from PICRC Researcher, Lincy Lee Marino and PICRC Policy/Development Coordinator, Andrea Uchel.
The results from this baseline show that (1) the amount of reef fish entering the local, commercial market is less than half of the overall consumption of reef fish in Palau; (2) tourist consumption of reef fish is a very small fraction of overall consumption (around 4%), and it is about half of the pelagic fish consumption; (3) tourists have a higher willingness to pay for pelagic fish than reef fish, but may be consuming reef fish due to the lack of pelagic options; (4) tourists are willing to pay extra for a local, sustainable brand, and urban residents are willing to pay more for high quality tuna; (5) most tourists were unaware of the PNMS, but of those who were, many said it played an important role in their decision to visit Palau; and (6) residents eat pelagic fish far less frequently than reef fish, but many reported not eating it because of the price and availability.
In accordance with these results, researchers suggest four steps moving forward. First, continue monitoring the supply and demand for both reef and pelagic fish so the PNMS Office can track impacts and support adaptive management. Second, use the findings from this report to assist with the development of an effective domestic fishery in Palau. Third, establish a local, sustainable brand of pelagic fish that tourists can trust. And finally, apply this information during the analysis of various policy options necessary for the implementation of the Sanctuary.
The copy of this report is available at the PICRC library or it can be downloaded at the PICRC website at www.picrc.org.