With increasing fishing pressures and a rapidly changing climate, marine protection is critical for the sustainability of our ocean’s resources. Palau is the first country to create a marine sanctuary encompassing 80% of its EEZ. The Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS), is one of the largest in the world and was established to ensure long-term food security, protect marine ecosystems and biodiversity, and increase Palau’s socio-ecological resilience to climate change.
Still, important questions remain about the extent to which the PNMS will provide protection for highly mobile species such as tuna and billfish, which are a major focus of the local fishery. Effective management under the PNMS depends upon understanding the amount of time these fishes spend within the sanctuary, the extent of their migrations, and the importance of Palau as a spawning and nursery area for these species.
Palau International Coral Reef Center, together with Dr. Alan Friedlander from National Geographic’s Pristine Seas and the University of Hawaii, and with support from the Government of Italy and National Geographic Pristine Seas, has set out on a two-year mission to examine the movement of yellowfin tuna and Indo-Pacific blue marlin in and around Palau’s waters.
“This is the first ever scientific examination of the effectiveness of a large-scale marine protected area for the conservation of highly mobile species and its potential value to local fisheries,” shared researcher, Dr. Alan Friedlander.
Working with local fishermen, the researchers are using advanced satellite and acoustic technologies to examine the movement of tuna and other important fisheries species. Preliminary results suggest young-adult yellowfin tuna and blue marlin are well protected within the PNMS. While some yellowfin fish moved outside of Palau’s waters, most tuna and all the blue marlin tagged stayed within the sanctuary boundaries. Further research will expand our knowledge and understanding of the movements and behaviors of these species.
Understanding the movement of open ocean fishes in and around Palau is critical to the sanctuary’s success. Science and monitoring is a key component of the PNMS and data from this study will provide valuable information about the ecology of yellowfin tuna, billfish, and other open water species. This will provide essential baseline information to compare the fisheries productivity before and after the establishment of the PNMS. (By: Palau International Coral Reef Research Center) [/restrict]