By: L.N. Reklai
April 20, 2017 (Koror, Palau) The survival of the world famous non-stinging jellyfish of the Jellyfish Lake, sometimes referred to as Serangeti of Palau is at stake as national, state, and traditional leadership debate the best way to ensure their survival.
The debate on whether the famous Jellyfish Lake should close or remain open to visitors had divided leadership of Koror State government, both traditional and elected.
After months of being silent on the issue, Minister Umiich Sengebau of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism, this week expressed national government’s position on the Jellyfish Lake.
“National government’s position is clear. The Jelly Fish Lake should be closed to public in order to allow nature to recover,” stated Minister Sengebau.
“We hope for a unified solution to this problem. The national government wants to approach this issue from science perspective. It is best to chose conservative position if research results do not give us clear answers,” expressed Minister Umiich Sengebau of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism at the press conference on Wednesday.
“After all, it is only in the best interest of all concern, the resource owners and the Republic of Palau, to see the jellyfish population at the Jellyfish Lake return,” he added.
Meanwhile, Koror State Governor Yositaka Adachi yesterday issued a notice to all stating in no uncertain terms that Jelly Fish Lake (Ongeim L’Tketau) will remain open for visitors and operations through May 1st, 2017 and beyond, until further notice by Koror State Government.
Notice further states, “Be advised that the Koror State Government and Koror State Legislature are the lawful and legal authority on the operational status of Jelly Fish Lake and has NOT called for any type of closure at this time. No other entity, body, group and or association, other than Koror State Government, DOES NOT hold any type of authority to call for any type of closure of Jelly Fish Lake.”
Earlier this month, Koror State House of Traditional Leaders announced their decision to impose traditional moratorium “bul” on the lake and closing it to visitors. The decision came about after a meeting with Minister Sengebau about the status of the Lake. They also asked for national law enforcement support in enforcing the “bul”.
Koror State Government in its letter to Ibedul of the HOTL reported that KSG has been working with their primary research partner Coral Reef Research Foundation to monitor the lake’s salinity, temperature and other factors. In a letter to OEK, Governor Adachi stated that the jellyfish are expected to return within a year to the numbers they had before.
Meanwhile, Minister Sengebau of MNRET likens the Jellyfish Lake situation to a sick person in ICU. “The best comparison for this situation is when someone is sick in the intensive care unit, the doctors would prohibit visitors. That person requires extra care to recover. In this case, jellyfish in the Jelly Fish Lake are in the same situation. The combination of factors outside our control such as climate change, drought and other things has stressed these animals. We should alleviate the stress by prohibiting visitors,” added Minister Sengebau.
The number of visitors to the lake has dropped drastically due to lack of jellyfish in the lake. Also, most tour operators and tour agents have removed advertising and tours to the Jelly Fish Lake from their programs. Palau Visitors Authority has removed information on the Jellyfish Lake from their collaterals. A public information statement was issued by Koror State and PVA on the status of the Jellyfish Lake to international vendors.
After the severe drought last year, the famous Jellyfish Lake lost its famous jellyfish. Although this is not the first time for such incident to occur, in previous occasions, juveniles were still seen in the lake. This time however, adult jellyfish and juveniles disappeared leaving only the polyps. “Like corals, these polyps will remain dormant until the right conditions are in place before they spawn but we just don’t know when the right conditions will take place,” expressed Minister Umiich Sengebau. [/restrict]