A recent study shows that the Maml population in Palau has declined despite the total ban on the harvesting, possessing, and selling of Maml (Napoleon Wrasse) and Kemedukl (Bumphead Parrotfish).
A comprehensive stock assessment of local populations of maml and kemedukl fish conducted by researchers of Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), Pristine Seas, National Geographic Society, and the University of Hawaii shows that the population of kemedukl increased slightly, but the population of maml decreased tremendously.
The results, published in the scientific journal, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, recommend that the fisheries for both species remain closed until stocks recover.
According to the study, independent stock assessments conducted in 2013 and 2021 show Kemedukl spawning potential ratio (SPR) increased slightly from 30% to 34%. The same study also shows that Maml spawning potential ratio decreased from 12% in 2013 to 4% in 2021.
Overfishing of these species in 1990s led to a legislation in 2006 banning the export, extraction, possession, and sale of either species. Despite the ban, the study’s results indicate continued poaching of the species.
“I was hoping that the populations of kemedukl and maml would improve in 2021 compared to 2013. The good news is we saw a slight increase in the kemedukl population, but what is very alarming is that the maml population has gone in the opposite direction and is very low,” said PICRC’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Yimnang Golbuu. “The results of this study suggest that there is significant poaching, preventing the full recovery of kemedukl and maml.”
The data from the study indicates that the fishery should remain closed until the stock reaches at least a 40% spawning potential rate. At the current rate, it can not sustain continued fishing. In order for the fishery to be opened one day for customary harvest, the closure must be maintained, and education, outreach, and enforcement must be strengthened.
A proposal was submitted to congress to allow for the limited harvest of these two fish species for cultural purposes. This study shows that the current population of these species cannot sustain continued fishing and recommends continued closure until they’ve recovered to a healthy population.