Palau government working with fishermen to address fish shortage

Belau Offshore Fishermens Association meeting. (Photo from the Palau International Coral Reef Center)

Palau has found itself in the midst of a fish shortage, with many restaurants and small caterers on island unable to find fish.

To address the shortage, the Palau Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism or MNRET are working with local fishermen on several measures, according to a release from the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC),

With the assistance of the Japan Government through the Japanese Official Development Assistance, MNRET is working towards acquiring a fishing vessel and the installation of additional fish aggregation devices. They are also planning to seek technical assistance for the use and maintenance of the vessel and FADs.

In addition, a fishermen exchange program is being negotiated with the Okinawa Prefecture to help with off-shore fisheries training for Palauan fishermen.

The Belau Offshore Fishermen’s Association (BOFA), a new fishing cooperative, is also being convened to make plans for Palauan fishermen to receive training; streamline offshore fishing operations, and; formulate a buying scheme that will stabilize the price for both consumers and fishers.

The interim president of BOFA, Okada Techitong, said that ultimately, the purpose of BOFA is to catch fish and sell it to fill the void that currently exists in the pelagic fishery, as well as to connect the community to Palau’s commercial fleet.

He added that this is an opportunity for Palauans to benefit more fully from the resources that exist in our waters, greater than the relatively small percentage that was being received from larger commercial operations.

Food security

PICRC said the fish shortage highlights the importance of food security for a small island nation, and how discrepancies in the market and supply chain can have ripple effects for the community.

PICRC said it emphasizes the need to strengthen capacity for Palauan fishermen to step in to provide fish when there are no larger commercial operations.

“In finding conservation solutions that are beneficial for the greatest amount of people, there will be many challenges to overcome, and it will take time to find the right balance. Supporting Palauan fishermen, and helping them find a fair price for their catch, is a good start in the process,” PICRC said in the release.