Two reports compiled by President Surangel Whipps Jr.’s Transition Subcommittee for the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment & Tourism (MNRET) examines steps the government can take for the development and conservation of Palau’s natural resources, including domestic fisheries.
The Subcommittee, chaired by Executive Director Ann Singeo of the Elbiil Society, states that the government aims to “increase production for aquaculture, domestic tuna fishery, and domestic agriculture to meet local demand”, as well as potential exports.
The President’s Transition Report recommends that MNRET be restructured and renamed the Ministry of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Fisheries & Environment, to account for the transfer of the Bureau of Tourism to the new Ministry of Human Resources, Tourism & Economic Development (MHRTED), and to account for a greater focus on the development of fisheries and agriculture.
The development of aquaculture, agriculture, and fisheries has been a signature part of President Whipps’ election campaign since the beginning. However, limited equipment and expertise has always posed a challenge for Palau in the development of large-scale fisheries, capable of catching exportable fish.
The Transition Report compiled by the MNRET Subcommittee investigates short and long-term goals for the government how to manage the development of fisheries in light of these limitations, such as amending the Marine Protection Act to improve fisheries management in Palau, and strengthening partnerships with states and private agencies.
A separate report compiled by the MNRET and Environment-related Agencies Subcommittee and submitted to the Committee’s Secretariat includes a more detailed look at the findings of the Subcommittee, and steps the government can take to help bring about sustainable domestic fisheries.
Suggestions made in this report include that the government consider aiding Palauan fishermen by providing free fishing days for locals to engage in longline fishing in the domestic fishing zone, as well as consider tax breaks and subsidies for locals trying to enter the tuna fishing industries.
Organizations like Belau Offshore Fisheries Inc. (BOFI), which was established last year as the sole administrator of tuna in Palau, have already said that expenses like fuel are a large challenge to Palauan fishermen, especially for those fishing for pelagics in offshore waters. According to BOFI Chairman Okada Techitong, building up domestic fisheries will take “national commitment” in addressing these challenges.
Renewed efforts have been made by the government to support capacity-building for offshore fishers since the implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS), such as investment in training for local fishermen in proper management of large fishery enterprises. However, proper equipment continues to pose a challenge, with few Palauans owning vessels big enough to catch tuna which can be exported. The report emphasizes the importance of continued partnerships with foreign donors such as Japan, which is preparing to hand over a pole-and-line fishing vessel to Palau.
The Bureau of Marine Resources (BMR) with the help of the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), has deployed a FAD system for catching smaller fish closer to shore, more accessible by smaller motorboats common in Palau. The fish which can be caught in these locations, such as juvenile yellowfin tuna, are generally considered too small to export, but can be sold on the local market. The report emphasizes the importance of “regular monitoring and maintenance” of these FADs, as well as developing a strategic plan for their use.
The report also emphasizes development of a Palau National Aquaculture Plan, and cooperation between the national government and the states to identify areas suitable for aquaculture. The Subcommittee suggests exploring different possibilities for farming different species, such as determining if rabbitfish culture is financially feasible, or if giant clams which are farmed can be marketed to aquariums.

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