• Research

PICRC and OPRI to conduct surveys of resources in seagrass beds and mangroves to assess potential to support blue economy

The Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) and the Ocean Policy Research Institute (OPRI) of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Japan are collaborating on a blue economy project to develop useful fishery resources for small islands. Palau and other small islands share the characteristics of being closed, remote, and maritime. In the past, they have relied on tourism to bring in foreign currency and ships for importing food. However, the COVID-19 pandemic cast a large shadow over the reliability of these industries. Now, policies for sustainable food production and resource management are more important.

“Naturally, fishery species are promising as the main targets for food production,” said Aquarium supervisor, Asap Bukurrou. “Last year, PICRC and OPRI conducted research that revealed undeveloped resources in seagrass beds and mangrove forests, such as mangrove crabs, mangrove clams, and white-spotted sea urchins.” 

While this presents an opportunity for sustainable food production, some vital questions are currently unanswered, such as the quantities of these resources and whether they can be utilized sustainably. Technology for aquaculture also needs to be developed. For giant clams, which have established production methods, the team aims to assess wild stocks to ensure food security.

During a visit in January 2023, OPRI Senior Researcher Atsushi Watanabe discussed research methods with PICRC researchers, went on field visits, and interviewed fishers and state government officials in several states of Babeldaob. Now, PICRC, in collaboration with OPRI, will conduct basic surveys on the abundance and catch status of several key species. Using the results as a reference, mangrove crab and mangrove clam stocks and catches will be determined for Ngatpang State and Ngeremlengui State. For sea urchins and giant clams, both of which are thought to be declining, researchers will conduct more detailed field surveys.

“For small islands, it is very important to conduct basic research to understand the abundance of natural resources such as seagrasses and mangroves and the fishery resources within them, and to utilize them in a sustainable manner and with added value. By collaborating with PICRC, we hope to achieve results that can be shared not only with Palau, but also with other island countries in the future,” said Atsushi Watanabe.