Palau has a long history of managing its fisheries. For generation upon generation, the Council of Chiefs has placed vulnerable reef areas off limits to fishing, known as a “bul,” to protect both biodiversity and the livelihoods and food security of their people. In these modern times, it is broadly accepted that “marine capture fisheries have direct impacts not only on the target market species, most significantly tuna, but also can have large impacts on a number of incidentally caught species, some of which are particularly vulnerable to overexploitation… [and] can directly degrade habitat and can have broad indirect or collateral effects on community structure and processes.1
Recent studies show that total fish biomass has declined from historical baselines as a result of fishing.
Worldwide, 4.7 million fishing vessels catch more than 90 million metric tons of fish from the oceans each year, equaling 246,000 tons each. The FAO estimates that about 90 percent of global fish stocks are either depleted or fully-fished, at or very close to their maximum sustainable yield. The number of ‘underfished’ fish stocks have reached the lowest levels recorded, rapidly declining over the past decade from 24 percent to 9.9 percent. (The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2014)
Within this context, ‘effective’ MPAs were estimated to have twice as many large fish species, five times more large fish biomass and fourteen times more shark biomass than fished areas. Within the 87 investigated MPA’s, including ineffective MPA’s, species richness of large fishes was 36% greater inside MPA’s compared to fished areas, biomass of large fishes was 35% greater and sharks 101% greater. Benefits derived from MPAs were determined to increase exponentially with the accumulation of five key features: 1) No Take, 2) Well enforced, 3) Old, 4) Large, and 5) Isolated.2
- Preliminary Ecological Risk Assessment of the Effects of the Republic of Palau Pelagic Longline Yellowfin and Bigeye Tuna Fisheries. Eric Gilman, Consultant to the Nature Conservancy, October 2013 (Goni, 1998, Jones, 1992; Kaiser et al., 2006; Gilman et al., 2013a, b.
- Global conservation outcomes depend on marine protected areas with five key features, Graham J. Edgar…, Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2014.