Since August 2019, Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) researchers have begun conducting their biennial marine protected area (MPA) surveys in all states who are members of the Protected Areas Network (PAN) around Palau. Since the baseline surveys conducted in 2015, this will be researchers’ third time surveying each state. The purpose of surveying is to determine whether the designated MPAs are effective in preserving biodiversity and boosting fish population. Results from these assessments will help guide MPA managers actions and decisions.
For the month of September, surveys were conducted in the Ngermedellim Marine Sanctuary in Melekeok State, in partnership with Melekeok Conservation Network conservation rangers. The rangers had been trained by researchers Ms. Evelyn Ikelau Otto and Ms. Lincy Lee Marino in August. Part of PICRC’s capacity building program is to engage the rangers and conservation officers by providing them an opportunity to do on-site learning when surveying their state MPAs. This would help develop their skills in survey methods and data collection. According to Ms. Marino, “Each month we will survey one state PAN MPA and we hope that other rangers can come take advantage of the opportunity to build on their capacity.”
Over two days, researchers and rangers surveyed two habitats on the reef flat of Melekeok: seagrass and coral reef habitats. In these habitats, surveyors assessed seagrass cover, coral cover, invertebrate size and abundance, and fish size and abundance, in the MPA and outside reference site for comparison. Melekeok rangers had already been conducting quarterly surveys in their MPA for a year. With this new training and partnership, they said that it is an opportunity to improve their work with the survey methods they have learned. When asked about their experience doing the surveys this week, Ranger Oilei Basilius said, “It was fun!”
PICRC would like to commend the Melekeok Conservation Network and Melekeok State for their dedication in the management of the Ngermedellim Marine Sanctuary, and thank them, as well as all PAN state coordinators, for their continued partnership.