“Our environment is our insurance policy and the last line of defense in sustaining our welfare” stated Chief Kloteraol Lebuu Littler. Klotaroal reminded Koror leaders not to sacrifice the health of our oceans in favor of development or profitable practices. When our modern economy is disrupted we should always have a clean ocean and healthy fisheries to fall back on to feed and support us. This was the Chief’s message to everyone who attended the Koror Leadership meeting on August 17th.
Sustainable Fisheries Management was the subject of a leadership meeting at the Koror Constitution Hall. Governor Franco Gibbons, Speaker Alan Marbou and members of the 11th Koror Legislature, with the House of Traditional Leaders headed by Kloteraol met with the Koror Fisheries Planning Team and partner agencies. In attendance also was Chairman David A. Orrukem of the Board of Palau Conservation Society with Vice Chair TJ Imrur Remengesau, member Dr. Sinton Soalablai and Executive Director Michelle Ngirutang, including the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries Environment’s Minister, Steven Victor.
Koror’s reefs are intensely fished for subsistence, commercial, sports, and recreation. Traditional and scientific evidence show significant decline of high valued fish groups. Today’s fisheries situation is recognized by the Koror community. The State Government with guidance from traditional leaders and women fishers is making efforts to improve coastal fisheries management.
The management of Koror’s marine resources has evolved from traditional governance where village chiefs knew of every activity on their reef and the “temang” system was practiced to today where anyone whose boat is registered in Koror can fish anywhere except inside conservation areas. The situation render the state’s coastal fisheries resources largely unmanned, falling behind a local fisheries sector equipped with high technology and speed boats.
At this time, the state imposes control measures only for groupers and sardines. But the state assists the Bureau of Maritime Security Fish & Wildlife Protection with enforcement of some 42 species which includes sponges and invertebrates regulated at the national level when violations take place within the state.
At the meeting, Koror’s Leaders were presented with key contents of a sustainable fisheries management plan for Koror. The Plan proposes measures for sustainability drawn from results of hamlet consultations with Koror fishermen and women, and invaluable traditional knowledge from the fisheries team led by Chief Iyechaderchemai Elia Yobch and members Joshua Eberdong, Adolf Demei, Telngai Yalap, Julia Techur, Huana Ilab, Ucheriang Aderkeroi, Lydia Ngirmeriil, Collin Joseph, and Ryan Mikel.
The fisheries plan provides a map which divides the Koror coastal reef area into 5 main divisions of Ngerdiluches, Ngermerand, Ngemelis, Sebeseb, and Ngerdims. In each of the divisions, all of the traditionally known fishing grounds including those areas frequented by women fishers are identified along with existing marine protected areas. Spawning sites and key fisheries habitat areas representing the different ecological systems necessary for the growth of fish were also identified, including new areas recommended for protection from the hamlet consultations.
The mechanisms adopted to sustain fisheries include spatial, temporal, size limits, gear regulations and permits. The management will in essence strive to maintain sustainable harvests, protect key functional fish groups, protect spawning aggregation sites, protect critical habitats and manage climate change risks.
At the meeting Governor Gibbons stated the project includes the development of a legislative framework bill that will enable sustainable fisheries management for the state which will be submitted to Speaker Marbou and the legislature for their review and legislative process. To his part, Speaker Marbou indicated the legislature has ongoing efforts to address some of the components of fisheries management.
The effort is an enormous feat for Koror. Minister Victor shared his sentiment emphasizing that real commitment from the leaders is critical in order to garner full community support and ensure the success of rebuilding and sustaining Koror’s coastal fisheries resources.