Seacology Supports Palau Marine Conservation Efforts
by Noah Idechong and Kevin Polloi, Palau Conservation Society
On June 9, 1997, Ngiwal State in the Republic of Palau established a third of their reef as a marine conservation area. The area, known as the Ngemai Conservation Area, came about in response to an alarm over the dramatic decline of reef fish and other marine resources due to over-harvesting. For five years, entry into the conservation area is prohibited in order for the fish and other marine resources to recover.
The community of Ngiwal, however, is faced with a tough challenge of managing the area without adequate training and proper equipment for the task. There have been incidents of encroachments into the conservation area resulting in fines, largely due to the lack of knowledge and visual markings about and around the conservation area.
Seacology awarded $17,000 to assist Palau Conservation Society, a local non-governmental organization, in their program to promote the wise use of Palauís natural resources, in this case the conservation of Ngemai reef. The support has allowed for the installation of proper demarcation buoys, the production of interpretive signs for the area and most importantly, the training of conservation officers from the community to effectively manage their own natural resources.These local conservation officers have been enrolled in the Palau National Police Academy to receive basic law enforcement training. Later, they will be attached to the Koror State Ranger Office, which is an established state-level law enforcement agency dealing with conservation and management of Kororís main tourist attraction, the Rock Islands and their dive sites. Other relevant training will also be provided, including natural resource management and surveying techniques.
The community is starting to see the increase in the number of reef fish as well as other marine organisms around the conservation area. The process of establishing the conservation area has made the community recognize the importance of conservation and the benefits of a pristine and ecologically productive environment.
The community, especially the stateís leadership, was very encouraged by Seacologyís assistance and the recent visit of executive director Duane Silverstein and members of Seacologyís expedition to Palau , and now plan on extending the conservation practice to the lush wetland and rich upland forests of Ngiwal State.