New PICRC Fisheries Report Finds Fish Stocks Slowly Rebounding

The Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) recently released a new technical report outlining the size and abundance of resource reef fish stocks across Palau. The report, based on PICRC’s 2019 nationwide fish surveys, finds evidence that populations are gradually beginning to recover from decades of overfishing.

While Palau’s fisheries are still widely depleted, as they have been since the 1970s, the new report highlights a number of signs that conditions are improving. The biomass of herbivorous fish was found to have increased significantly since PICRC’s previous 2017 survey, a good sign, as herbivores control algae on reefs and create space for young corals to grow. The report also identifies “hot spots” of high fish biomass in the northern reefs, and in the south near Peleliu and Angaur.

Additionally, out of eight species surveyed for spawning potential, six were found to produce enough offspring to naturally maintain their population size. In 2017, only four of six species surveyed met this threshold. 

These improvements signal that management initiatives, such as the Protected Areas Network, state conservation areas and the ban on reef fish export, are beginning to turn the tide for Palau’s reef fisheries.

“After so many years of overfishing, recovery will take time” said PICRC researcher and lead author of the report, Christina Muller Karanassos.  “But in this new report, we’re starting to see signs that fish populations are recovering.”  In May of this year, PICRC completed the third round of nationwide fish surveys.  Data from the surveys are now being analyzed and will provide further information on how the fish stocks are doing.

Report authors Dawnette Olsudong, Christina Muller Karanassos, Geory Mereb and Victor Nestor

Additional management initiatives can build on current efforts and help our fish populations continue to recover. The report’s authors recommend implementing minimum sizes, especially for fish species with low spawning potential, increasing enforcement and expanding MPAs to protect species with large ranges.

Additional report authors Geory Mereb, Asap Bukurrou, LeahMarie Bukurou, Dawnette Olsudong, E. Ikelau Otto and Victor Nestor

“Reef fisheries are an important part of food security and culture in Palau, so these results are very encouraging” continued Muller Karanassos. “Our hard work is paying off.”

Read the full technical report here: https://picrc.org/picrcpage/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Fish-stock-assessment-2019-report_FINAL.pdf