Photo from Earlham Institute website

The effort to bring back tilapia fish to Palau as source of food and income is once again on the table for discussion.  House bill 10-8-1 seeking to amend current laws and enable tilapia to be promoted as source of food and income for Palauans, passed 3rd reading in the House of Delegates during its 13th Regular Session last week.

The bill which was introduced in 2017 seeks to amend the current law classifying tilapia fish as an invasive species and mandates Bureau of Marine Resource to provide seedlings to Palauan citizens to establish tilapia fish farms.

Currently Bureau of Marine Resources provide seedling for giant clams and rabbit fishfry (meas and kelsebuul) to local aquaculture farms.

One of findings on the bill states that “fishing farms of tilapia in the Philippines are very successful and that such fishing farms are particularly successful in improving the quality of life in impoverished areas by providing both a source of food and a means of income.”

In addition, the bill states that PAN sites in various States are restricting fishermen and that tilapia fish farming could help those fishermen.

Furthermore, the bill says it recognizes the threat tilapia farming can cause to freshwater ecosystem and believes that through regulations, the industry can be environmentally managed.

The proposal to create tilapia industry in Palau is not new.  In the 7th OEK its was introduced but community opposition of the bill ensured failure of its passage.

Fears that the highly aggressive invasive fish species with no natural enemy will destroy Palau’s endemic ecosystem drove many to oppose the bill.

In 2004, focused attention to eradicate populations of tilapia that were in Palau in certain ponds in Koror led to eradication of over 29,000 fish.  Tilapia is one of the listed invasive species in Palau.

Aquaculture productions currently in operation in Palau include milkfish farms, rabbit fish farms and giant clam farms.  These farms face challenges such as high production cost, low output vs demand, labor skills and cost and lack of existing infrastructure support according to FAO Aquaculture Initiatives Report on Palau.

The HB 10-8-1 was introduced in March of 2017 in the House and this January 2020, it finally passed 3rd reading and will be deferred to Senate for its deliberations. (L.N. Reklai)