Project Report:
Ecological and Economic Assessment of Bumphead Parrotfish and Humphead Wrasse in Palau to develop market-based and culturally appropriate management options
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


The Nature Conservancy will work with government and community partners, experts in fisheries and economics, to incorporate economic and market-based approaches into the co-management of key fisheries in the Republic of Palau and Pohnpei (Federated States of Micronesia). This project will allow us to begin to demonstrate practical options for improving fisheries co-management in Micronesia to address the current decline in coastal fisheries and the challenges with their effective management. We propose to assist with the establishment of fishers’ associations that promote user-rights and markets-based approaches; and help initiate development of economic and market-based tools and approaches. This project is part of a longer-term initiative to demonstrate integrated coastal fisheries co-management that incorporates EAF principles, shows stakeholder involvement in management decisions, and applies cost effective harvest strategies based economic and market-based solutions.

School of Fish
A March 2014 Foundation site visit confirmed that reef fish have recovered dramatically in Palau. Large schools of fish were common sights. In contrast, neighboring islands visited at the same time had depleted reef fisheries.


Final Project update:

The Bumphead parrotfish (kemedukl) and the Napoleon wrasse (maml) are fish species that both hold high economic and cultural value in Palau. Due to intense fishing pressure, landings for both species dropped dramatically in the late 90s to the early 2000s. As a response to this sharp decline, national legislation was enacted in 2006 that imposed a total ban on the extraction, possession, and sale of the two species. Since this ban, there has been anecdotal evidence from fishermen as well as results from a general study on herbivorous fish that seem to indicate increasing encounters with the species and suggesting population recovery. However, no formal scientific study has been done to specifically assess the status of the stocks of both species.
This report is a summary of the findings of an ecological survey to assess the current status of the two populations and a willingness to pay (WTP) survey of divers to determine the contribution of the species to Palau’s tourist dive industry. The report also presents policy and management options that may be implemented in order to ensure the persistence of these important species.
A total of 61,845 (556,605 kg) kemedukl and 37,071 (151,884 kg) maml were estimated to exist in the waters within the main Palau archipelago.
The tourist WTP survey revealed that both the kemedukl and maml are included in the top 10 most popular species that divers come to see when diving in Palau. The survey also indicated that ecological and management scenarios significantly affected the dive fee that tourists were willing to pay for their dive experience. With the current tourist numbers, the strictest management scenario of a closed fishery with numerous large individuals had an estimated tourism value of $16.1 million annually. This value is reduced to 12.6 million annually if both species were uncommon or absent.
Market landing data from the Bureau of Marine Resources revealed a gradual increase in price of 5 cents annually before the ban. The current market price of the species was extrapolated from this trend and used to estimate a 2013 price of $2.02/lbs for kemedukl and $2.07/lbs for maml. Combining the 2013 prices and the proposed sustainable landings for a scenario of effective management and strict enforcement, the current annual fishery value for both species was estimated at about $26,000. (refer to: An Assessment of maml and kemedukl in Palau and management recommendations A report to The Nature Conservancy-Micronesia Program)

Palau General fisheries reforms updates:
In June and July 2013, we completed a series of community and leadership meeting in Ngarchelong and Kayangel to discuss the need for both States to enhance fishery management in the northern reef region of Palau. Based on the consultation, both States passed resolutions urging for more collaboration between the two States to work together for managing fishery in the northern reef in the context of their existing protected areas network efforts.

We continue to work with Palau Bureau of Marine Resources in finalizing their strategic plan that now emphasize management and data collection vs their previous efforts focused on fishery development. We are also working with them to restructure the Bureau to effectively carry out the new strategic plan and contributes to the managment of coastal fishery in Palau.

We have initiated an effort with Bureau of Marine Resources to establish data collection system at fish market to collect data to better understand catch rates and data that will contribute to better policy that benefits fishery and fishermen in the long term.

In December 2013, the States of Kayangel and Ngarchelong signed a co-managment agreement for collaboration on management and enforcemnet of the northern reefs of Palau (see attachment- Northern Reef Co-managmnet agereement-signing). A co-management committee which consists of Governors from the two States, fishermen representatives (one from each State), Dr. Golbuu from Palau International Coral Reef Center, Minister Umiich Sengebau, Natural Resource Environment and Tourism, and Chuck Cook, The Nature Conservancy was established to help guide the piloting of fisheris reform project in the northern reefs of Palau. Evaluation of alternative livelihoods, such as giant clam framing in the north has been evaluated by a aquaculture expert from the Secretrariat of Pacific Community (SPC). There is a great potential for this livelihood opportunity to be established in the north to support fishermen to allow them to give the reef and the fisheries resources time to recover.

In March 2014, during the first Northern Reef Co-Management Committee meetings, presentations on the status of stock and management recommendations; enforcement needs; capacity building needs were made to the committee. A recommendation from the results of stock assessment recommends ban on 5 species (2 groupers, 1 white snapper, 1 red snapper, 1 unicorn fish, and 1 parrotfish) for a period of 1-3 years at which time during the closure a stock assessment monitoring will be conducted annually for recommendations on when each species population has recovered to its minimum 20% spawning potential ratio (SPR). The Co-management committee is considering the recommendation as well as engaging with their fishing communities to gain support for this management measure.


The purpose of this project is to effectively incorporate economic and market-based approaches into the co-management of key coastal fisheries in Palau and Pohnpei (Federated States of Micronesia) to demonstrate practical options for improving fisheries sustainability and resilience in Micronesia.


Phase 1 of this project (April 2010-October 2011) was undertaken across the Micronesia Challenge jurisdictions of: Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia (Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae), Republic of the Marshall Islands, U.S. Territory of Guam and the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Phase 2 (this proposal) will be undertaken in the Republic of Palau and Pohnpei State (Federated States of Micronesia) with exchanges within Micronesia and between Micronesia and Hawaii. The approaches being developed and applied in the two demonstration projects will inform coastal fisheries co-management elsewhere in Micronesia (through the Micronesia Challenge), Hawaii (through the exchanges and the Conservancy’s Hawaii Chapter’s marine program), the broader Pacific (through our partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community) and into the Coral Triangle (through TNC’s involvement with the Coral Triangle Initiative).

Amount Approved
$50,000.00 on 6/4/2012 (Check sent: 7/2/2012)

Giant Clam Hatchery
Giant Clam Hatchery in Palau. The inset photo shows a giant clam growing on a reef. As a future project, The Nature Conservancy is interested in utilizing the hatchery to out plant clams on to reefs that are recovering from overfishing. The expectation is that clams will provide additional food and income while the fisheries are recovering. However, clams are slow-growing and easily poached. Where protected from poaching, out planting of clams in favorable sites has been successful. (photo by Barrett Walker)

Cheilinus undulatus
Photo of maml (palauan name) Cheilinus undulatus, one of the species currently under ban to be studied in this project

Napoleon wrasse
Large Napoleon wrasse (maml) photographed by Barrett Walker on March 2014 site visit to Palau. As reported, this keystone species has recovered in size and abundance compared to a previous visit in Jan, 2007. Coral, as seen in the background, was also healthy and abundant on Palau reefs.

© 2024 Alex C. Walker Foundation