The Palau International Coral Reef Center’s (PICRC) was awarded a grant of $32,600, from the Micronesia Conservation Trust to assess the impact of increased tourism on the reefs. With the support of this grant, PICRC researchers will conduct research on “Monitoring and Assessing the Impact of Growing Tourism on Coral Reefs in Palau, Micronesia”.  Due to the increasing number of tourists arriving each year, this study is vital to understanding the impacts the tourism industry may have on Palau’s coral reefs.[restrict]

The study consists of two components: assessing the impact of tourists on coral reefs and increased demand of local seafood on the coral reef fish communities. With the first component, PICRC researchers will observe tourists at five popular snorkeling sites. In their observations they will make note of any coral damage associated with the tourists’ activities. In addition to assessing tourist behavior on the coral reefs, they will also look at the coral cover and fish population at popular snorkeling sites. This part of the project will use last year’s snorkeling survey as a baseline for comparison.

For the second component, PICRC research team will thoroughly survey commercially-important fish populations in different reef habitats all around Palau. This survey will serve as a baseline on fish population status in Palau; with which researchers can later use to assess changes over time. This information will help understand if there is a significant impact on reef fishes due to the increased demand of local fish to feed visitors.  Economically, Palau is benefitting positively from the tourism industry. However, we do not know the full impact of the tourism industry on our environment, especially our coral reefs and seafood resources.

PICRC is pleased to accept this grant from the Micronesia Conservation Trust because it represents the region’s support for the study.  The award by MCT highlights the importance of this work for Palau and the region. As PICRC continues to produce reputable coral reef research, this study will contribute to related studies, as well as management policies that may derive from these findings.