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Last updateTue, 18 Jun 2019 12am







    Monday, June 17, 2019-9:15:44P.M.






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Regional News

Island reef fish and tourism

RESEARCHER Yoshitaka Ota, Nippon Foundation-UBC Nereus Program director of policy at the University of Washington, said the ocean is central to Palau’s life and customs.

Hence, Ota said, the people’s seafood consumption must be maintained sustainably.

“The most important thing is for the people of Palau to keep engaging with the ocean, eating good fish, catching fish sustainably and protecting their way of life — tekoi ra Belau as they say in Palau.”

In many islands in Micronesia, marine ecosystems play a central role in the people’s economic and social life: subsistence and commercial fishing, tourism, GDP and employment.

However, today, climate change, and tourist fish consumption may cause future reef ecosystem decline.

Still, coral and reef fish can be conserved by preventing ocean pollution and observing seasonal fishing.

In Palau, reducing tourist consumption of reef fish is critical to ensure sustainability.

Colette Wabnitz, research associate with the Nippon Foundation-UBC Nereus Program/Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, said: “Tourist numbers can reach nine times the local population and most come to enjoy the ocean. This puts enormous pressure on local marine resources that are central to local communities’ culture, food security and livelihoods.”

After developing a socio-ecological computer model to explore policy scenarios involving tourism, climate change, marine conservation, and local food security, researchers found that reefs can be better maintained by shifting seafood consumption to open water fish, such as sustainably harvested tuna, instead of reef fishes such as grouper, snapper and parrotfish.

According to Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor, Nippon Foundation-UBC Nereus Program manager, “Dining habits are removing important fish species from local reefs, and it’s ironic that viewing these fish is the reason people come in the first place…. Sustainable tourism, especially ecotourism, shouldn’t threaten the food security of local people or their environment.”

Under its government’s proposal to develop an offshore national fishery as part of the recently designated national marine sanctuary, Palau will able to protect reef systems and the industries that rely on them, including local lifestyles intimately linked to catching and eating seafood.