Ms. Persis Dilbudech Omelau, from the University of Alaska, journey’s back home for the Palau International Coral Reef Center’s (PICRC) 2016 Summer Internship Program, Building Science and Environmental Capacity in Palau’s Youth. The internship program was made possible by the Government of Palau’s 2016 Year of the Youth Small Grant Scheme, which is supported by a Grant from the Government of India.


Ms. Omelau is currently enrolled in the University of Alaska in Fairbanks in the school of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. She shares her experience on how she made the decision to further her education in this field.  She explains that her whole life has been linked with marine fisheries. She was first introduced to it as a child when she would go out fishing all night with her father and would be too tired to attend school the next day. At the time, she believed fishing was a higher priority than going to her regularly scheduled classes at school. She grew up enjoying fishing with her dad. During one of their fishing trips, she told her dad, “fishing is exactly what I want do when I grow up.” Her dad responded, “You see, we can’t all become fishermen. We would catch all the fish and there will be nothing left for us to catch.” Her dad’s words were meaningless for a 6-year-old kindergartener at the time. But it was through conversations over the years with her father that she began to understand the concept of conservation. She realized that certain resources such as fishes, although may seem inexhaustible, can be depleted if managed carelessly. She never said anything in response to her dad’s comments, but deep inside she told herself that she was not going to let this happen. This is what led her to further her education in the school of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. She hopes someday that she will fulfill that promise she made herself as a young girl many years ago in making sure that the ocean’s resources are abundant for the future.

Some may wonder, of all places to go to school, why a Pacific Islander chose to go to school in Alaska, with its harsh winters? She explains that she chose to enroll in the University of Alaska because “it is among the few states in the United States (US) with the best program in Fisheries.  Alaska is currently the leading state of US in fisheries management and one of the most productive fisheries areas in the world. During myacademic experience in Alaska so far, I have realized that it shares similar fishery management programs with Palau. For instance, Alaska has established cooperative management systems with many native villages where people still heavily rely on fish resources for living. One of the main reasons Alaska hasthe most effective and successful fishery is the allocation of management among the community (elders), state, and national levels. Recognizing the community as an important part of an efficient fishery management is a common practice shared by Palau and Alaska. I am fortunate to have witnessed both management systems acknowledging the level of knowledge and skills acquired through years of experience by fisherman and local elders. I strongly believe that studying both the biological and the societal aspects of fisheries gives us an overview of how people relate to their environment as well as how the environment reacts to human actions. This allows proper and efficient management actions to accommodate sustained fish stocks and human demands.”

Ms. Omelau shares that she chose to apply for intern at PICRC two reasons. First, she believes it is one of the leading marine research facilities in Palau. Secondly, she feels that it is an honor to work under a facility managed and lead by highly educated Palauan researchers. She is currently working on a research project about the northern reef’s fish stocks where she is currently focusing on fishermen landings. For a few weeks, Ms. Omelau has been collecting data on fishermen’s catches at local fish markets. After data collection, she will input and analyze data. She is under the supervision of PICRC researcher, Ms. Lukes Isechal.

Ms. Omelau explains that the area of fisheries is not simple; it israther a complex field that requires management, biological, economical, and social proficiencies. She further explains, “these are many skills and knowledge bundled into one field of profession; all of which I will soon provide for my country. The assurance of working for Palau in the future is not because it is mandatory; it is because I made a promise to myself 19 years ago to stand for the marine conservation of Palau. Hopefully, I will get a chance to do my part as a citizen of Palau.”

The Palau International Coral Reef Center is proud to support Ms. Omelau’s efforts in marine conservation in Palau. The Center is confident that her time with the researchers as well as the skills, knowledge, and experience she gains will bring her further in achieving her goals of saving the ocean’s resources for the future. [/restrict]