While snorkelers cause some damage to rock island sites, the impact have not been significant enough to reduce the amount of coral cover in the popular snorkeling sites compared to reference, or non-tourist sites, according to studies conducted by PICRC at some of the popular snorkeling sites at the rock islands.

The result of this study and the data on the populations of giant trevally (erobk) were discussed with Koror State leaders on April 19, 2018 at Koror State Assembly Hall.

Representing PICRC in the meeting was PICRC CEO, Dr. Yimnang Golbuu, Director of the Research Department, Ms. Geraldine Rengiil, researchers Victor Nestor and Lincy Marino, and Development Coordinator Andrea Uchel.

Koror State Government leaders who attended the meeting included Governor Gibbons, Director of the Department of Conservation and Law Enforcement Jennifer Olegeriil and other Koror State staff along with Koror State Legislature Speaker Alan Marbou and other members of the 10th Koror State Legislature.

Researcher Nestor gave a brief talk on the impacts of snorkelers on shallow coral reefs.

In 2015 to 2017, a study was conducted by PICRC, assessing the impacts snorkelers may have on shallow coral reefs at popular snorkeling sites in the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (RISL).

During this study researcher observed snorkelers causing direct damage to corals. Researchers also determined coral fragments were higher in visited sites compared with non-visited sites but the good news is, coral cover at the snorkeling sites are still high, similar to reference, non-tourist sites.

Victor recommended increase in education and awareness activities to our visitors as well as continued monitoring to ensure that the impact of tourist will not increase to a point where they will negatively impact coral cover at the snorkeling sites.

As a part of a special request from the state, Dr. Golbuu briefly presented data on the fish species, Caranx ignobilis, or erobk, to the members of the legislature. Over the years, many fishermen have reported that the erobk population is in decline.

As such, the Koror State Government is exploring conservation measures to increase protection of the species and hopefully recuperate the population. Dr. Golbuu’s presentation focused on the data collected from various studies conducted within Koror. The data indicates a low population of erobk within monitoring sites in Koror State waters.

The presentations were followed by a prudent discussion among PICRC staff and members of the legislature and the Office of the Governor. PICRC and Koror State Government have a strong partnership and collaboration with many research and monitoring projects and both share the common goal of effective coral reef conservation and management. (PR)