The designations employed and the presentation of material in the map(s) are for illustration only and do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal or constitutional status of any country, territory or sea area, or concerning the delimitation of frontiers or boundaries.
⇧Part I Statistics and main indicators
This section provides statistics and indicators produced through FAO’s Statistics programmes, available by the year reported for the narrative section.
General geographic and economic indicators
Table1 – General geographic and economic data - Palau
(1) Source: unpublished data, Office of Planning and Statistics
(2) In the official statistics of Palau [Bureau of Budget & Planning (2008). 2006 Statistical Yearbook. Ministry of Finance, Republic of Palau] the “agriculture” component of GDP does not include fishing
(3) This is the official fisheries contribution to GDP as per Bureau of Budget & Planning (2008). 2006 Statistical Yearbook. Ministry of Finance, Republic of Palau. A recalculation shows the total fishing contribution to be USD 9.6 million (Gillett 2009)
FAO Fisheries statistics
Table 2a – Fisheries data (i) - Palau
Table 2b – Fisheries data (ii) - Palau
(4) Data from FAO food balance sheet of fish and fishery products.
(5) Corrected to reflect actual supply.
(6) In addition, the 2005 census indicates that 305 people reported income from selling fish and 933 people reported some subsistence fishing.
(7) From Gillett (2009). The Contribution of Fisheries to the Economies of Pacific Island Countries and Territories. Pacific Studies Series, Asian Development Bank, Manila. Includes the six fishery production categories: (1) coastal commercial fishing, (2) coastal subsistence fishing, (3) locally-based offshore fishing, (4) foreign-based offshore fishing, (5) freshwater fishing, and (6) aquaculture.
Updated 2009⇧Part II Narrative
This section provides supplementary information based on national and other sources and valid at the time of compilation. References to these sources are provided as far as possible.
Production sectorThe geography of Palau exerts a large influence on fishing in the country. The 343 islands of the Republic of Palau are diverse in geological origin and include volcanic, low platform, high platform, and atoll types. The Republic includes the islands of Koror (the administrative center and capital), Babelthuap (the largest island in terms of land mass, making up 78% of Palau’s land area), Angaur, Peleliu and several coral outer islands including Sonsorol, Tobi, Pulu Anna, Helen’s Reef and Merir to the southwest, and Kayangel to the north. More than 70% of the population resides in Koror.
Marine life in Palau is abundant and diverse with over 1 300 species of tropical fish and over 700 different species of hard and soft corals in the lagoons and reefs. Most coastal habitats and topographical features found anywhere in the Pacific Island can be found within Palau. The most distinguishing features of the coastal area of Palau as compared to most other Pacific Island countries are the large amount of mangroves and coastal tourism.
Much of the coastal fishing activity is geared to producing for domestic urban markets, while the offshore fishing consists largely of tuna longlining for the export market.
The major marine habitats of Palau and their approximate sizes are:
Table 3 – Fisheries production by category – Palau (2007)
The above estimates include landings by foreign flagged vessels operating within the EEZ of Palau.
The main trends and important issues in the fisheries sector
The main trends in the sector include:
(8) This is the catch in the Palau zone by vessels based outside the country.
(9) Pearls and giant clams are commonly measured in pieces, rather than kgMarine sub-sectorThe marine fisheries have two very distinct components, offshore and coastal:
Table 4 - Catch volumes and values for the Palau-based offshore fleet – Palau
Estimates of catches from the coastal fisheries vary widely. In 2008 the Asian Development Bank examined a large number of studies on coastal fishing in Palau, and made catch estimates by selectively using certain reports, especially a survey by the Palau Conservation Society11. Accordingly, it was determined that crude estimates of the recent annual production from Palau’s coastal fisheries would be:
(10) FFA (2008). The Value of WCPFC Tuna Fisheries. Unpublished report, Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara.
(11) PCS (2000). Profiles of Palau’s Inshore Fisheries, 1989-1998. Palau Conservation Society.Landing sitesThe locally-based offshore fishing vessels generally offload their catch at the industrial port that services the Koror urban area. There are reports that some longliners occasionally deliver their catch to Davao in the Philippines.
The catch from small-scale commercial fishing is offloaded, mainly at Koror. Some is landed at other locations (i.e. on several locations on Babelthuap) where it is delivered by truck to markets, mainly in Koror.
Subsistence fishery landings occur at coastal villages and hamlets throughout the country, roughly in proportion to the distribution of the population. Fishing practices/systemsAlmost all offshore tuna catches in the Palau zone are currently made by locally-based foreign longliners. These vessels range in size from about 16 to 27 metres in length. Most vessels are registered in Taiwan, Province of China, with smaller numbers registered in Belize, Indonesia, and Vietnam. In 2007 about 100 such vessels were based in Koror and licensed to fish in the Palau zone. Some tuna is occasionally caught around Palau by purse seining (405 tonnes in 2007), but the zone is located to the west of where most tuna purse seining in the Pacific Islands region occurs.
Coastal fishing in Palau is carried out by using various types of vessels and gears – on a commercial and subsistence basis. Techniques used include simple hand-collection to hook-and-line fishing, underwater spear-fishing, net fishing and trolling, most of which are conducted almost exclusively by men.
Boat-based coastal fishing activities involve the use of small fishing craft, typically from 4.8 to 7.6 m in length and powered by outboard motors. At least 25% of households in Palau own fishing boats and through the extended family system, most fishers have access to a powered craft of this type. The completion of the road around the island of Babelthuap several years ago caused considerable change in the marketing of catch and made boat-owners shift landing places for their craft.
Another aspect of coastal fishing in Palau are the occasional commercial fishing trips from the urban center of Koror to the southwest islands – an activity that periodically produces spikes in national coastal fish production.Main resourcesThe main targets of longlining in the Palau zone are three species of tuna. In recent years about half of the longline tuna catch was bigeye, with yellowfin about a third, and the remainder albacore.
The Palao Conservation Society (PCS 2000)12 gives the important species in Palau’s coastal fisheries:
Table 5 - Important species in Palau’s coastal fisheries - Palau
(12) PCS (2000). Profiles of Palau’s Inshore Fisheries, 1989-1998. Palau Conservation Society.Management applied to main fisheriesThe management of the offshore fishery is undertaken through the framework of a management plan. The management of other coastal fisheries is less formalized.
The “Palau National Tuna Fisheries Management 2001” is a 39-page document. The first 18 pages are dedicated to descriptions of the fisheries, resources, and legal regime. The substantive elements consist of the aims of the plan, the scope of the plan, and seven main objectives. The plan has proven useful in balancing tradeoffs, especially between fishery and tourism objectives.
The management applied to coastal fisheries is shaped by the Palau constitution, various laws covering fisheries activities, the staff of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment & Tourism, NGOs, and communities. The constitution gives the power to manage coastal fisheries in the zone up to 12 nautical miles offshore to the 16 states that make up the country. A salient issue having considerable impact on the fisheries management strategy in Palau is the balancing of nutritional, tourism, and export benefits of coastal resources (Box). There is a growing sentiment in Palau that, given the realities of coastal fisheries management in Palau, the most appropriate course of action would be to simply ban the export of coastal food fish. Non-government organizations, especially the Palau Conservation Society, exert considerable influence in coastal fisheries management.
Palau is a member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission that was established by the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. The Convention entered into force in June 2004.
Box 1: Fish for nutrition, tourism, and exports - Palau
The Palau National Tuna Fisheries Management Plan specifies the objectives for the management of the country’s offshore fisheries:
The management objectives of coastal fisheries are less formalized. In general, the objectives of much management are to assure the sustainability of fishery resources for domestic food, for recreation for Palauans, and for viewing by tourists.
Management measures and institutional arrangements
The main management measure for the offshore fisheries (as stipulated in the Palau National Tuna Fisheries Management Plan) is a requirement for a fishing licence and conditions associated with that licence (i.e. payment of fees, pollution controls). These measures are supplemented by a number of regional measures coordinated by the Forum Fisheries Agency, including:
Box 2 - Minimum terms and conditions for foreign fishing vessel access - Palau
In the management of coastal fisheries, a number of management measures at the national level are used. Many are specified in the legislation. These include mesh sizes, bans on types of fishing gear, minimum size limits, catch bans, export bans, and closed seasons. Palau has been a pioneer in the region in the use of marine protected areas for fishery and other purposes.
There are also management measures implemented at the local level. As an example, a World Bank study14 identified management measures at six sites in Palau:
Table 6 -Perceived threats and local management measures – Palau
The national-level management measures are implemented through the Bureau of Marine Resource of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism. Lower level management measures are implemented by the 16 state governments which, under the constitution, control all resources from the shoreline up to 12 nautical miles offshore (except for the tuna resources).
The Palau Conservation Society is an important institution affecting the management of marine fisheries. Founded by a former fisheries officer, the Society has been active in advocating fisheries management, conducting studies in support of fisheries management, and promoting alternatives to extractive uses of the marine environment.
(13) Chapman, L. (2004). Nearshore Domestic Fisheries Development in Pacific Island Countries and Territories. Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea
(14) World Bank (2000). Voices from the Village. Number 9, Pacific Island Discussion Paper Series, World Bank, Washington DC, 175 pages.Fishing communitiesThe concept of “fishermen communities” has limited applicability to Palau. Nearly all households in the country are involved in coastal fishing activities. It could therefore be stated that all villages in Palau are “fishing communities”.Inland sub-sectorThere are no major freshwater fisheries, but the larger islands of Palau (especially Babeldaob) have freshwater bodies that support small amounts of edible freshwater fish and invertebrates. Eels and shrimp are likely to be the most abundant of the edible freshwater animals. The capture of eels is not large due to cultural attitudes. Small amount of freshwater shrimp are taken and consumed. Aquaculture sub-sectorThe Micronesian Mariculture Demonstration Center was established in 1973 to serve Palau and other US-affiliated Pacific islands by developing, demonstrating and promoting mariculture technology. Later renamed the Palau Mariculture Demonstration Center the facility also serves as a sub-regional mariculture training centre and a marine science research laboratory.
During four decades the culture in Palau of a large number of organisms has been attempted, both at the Center and in independent efforts. Despite these activities significant aquaculture production in Palau is presently confined to giant clams and milkfish. In 2007, hatcheries in Palau produced about 0.4 million giant clam juveniles and 0.2 million milkfish fingerlings . About 4.1 tonnes of milfish were produced through aquaculture. This aquaculture production is mostly dependent on government subsidies.
The main aquaculture management measure is the requirement for an aquaculture permit for all facilities. Recreational sub-sectorIn Palau there is recreational fishing for both Palau residents and for tourists. Residents participate in fishing as a casual leisure activity. In addition, there is an active gamefishing association. One major fishing derby and a few small fishing derbies are held each year in Palau.
There are about 10 vessels which occasionally participate in commercial sports fishing for tourists, but only a few vessels are employed primarily in this business. Most commercial sports fishing for tourists involves pelagic trolling outside the reef, but there has been promotion of inshore catch-and-release sports fishing by the Palau Conservation Society.
There is no active management of the recreational sub-sector, except for the general applicability of the national/state legislation (e.g. some spatial bans on fishing activity).
Post-harvest sectorFish utilizationIn general offshore fishing is export oriented. The high quality fresh bigeye and yellowfin is typically exported for sashimi, with the albacore destined to canneries and the bycatch for domestic and export use.
With respect to the disposal of the catch from coastal fisheries, because subsistence fishing remains a major activity (about 60% of the coastal catch by volume), much is utilized by the household that makes the catch. The remainder of the coastal catch is used for local retail markets, the hotel/restaurant trade in Palau, and for export. The latter category is largely exported as baggage by travelers to family and friends in Guam and Honolulu. The distribution channel for trochus is quite different, with the meat being utilized locally and the shell for the manufacture of mother-of-pearl buttons. Most of the giant clam exports are for the ornamental aquarium trade.Fish marketsIn Palau all fresh chilled sashimi-grade tuna, once offloaded and packed, are air-freighted within 24 hours to sashimi markets in Japan (95%), U.S mainland, and Taiwan Province of China. The albacore for canning goes mostly to Asian canneries (mainly in Thailand) but occasionally is canned in American Samoa.
Although subsistence fishing remains a major activity, the economic growth of Koror, tourism development, the increasing availability of non-fisheries related employment and a large foreign labour force have together resulted in the establishment of a cash market for fresh fish and other seafoods. These markets are located in mainly the Koror urban area, but some small markets exist in the main residential areas of the states.
The trochus button manufacturing occurs in Asia and Europe, with the specific destination dependent on price. Marine ornamentals (aquarium fish, juvenile giant clams) are for markets in the USA.
Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sectorRole of fisheries in the national economyA recent study by the Asian Development Bank15 attempted to quantify the fishery-related benefits received by Palau. The study gave the available information on the contribution of fishing/fisheries to GDP, exports, government revenue, and employment. The results can be summarized as:
(15) Gillett, R. (2009). The Contribution of Fisheries to the Economies of Pacific Island Countries and Territories. Pacific Studies Series, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Forum Fisheries Agency, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and Australian Agency for International Development, 362 pages.Supply and demand
The government has several strategies to increase the national fish supply. These involve supporting the development of aquaculture, and facilitating the capture of under-exploited tuna and bottomfish, and provision of ice at fisheries centers to facilitate marketing. The government is now contemplating a ban on the export of inshore food fish, with one objective being to prevent a decrease in fish supply for domestic consumption.
Major factors affecting the local supply of fish are over-fishing, transport links from the non-urban parts of the country, and the offloading of fish by the offshore fleet.
The per capita consumption of fish in Palau, based on the 2007 FAO food balance sheet, is 67.7 kg. Various other studies have made estimates ranging between 33.4 and 135.0 kg. The determination of fish consumption in Palau is complicated by a large tourist population.
Considering Palau’s expected population growth and an hypothetical average annual consumption of 65 kg of fish per capita, the demand for fish fish in 2010 would amount to about 1 365 tonnes of fish.
Major factors influencing the future demand for fish are emigration, increases in the price of fish, the state of the tourism industry, and the general prosperity of Palau. The latter is greatly affected by payments by the USA under the arrangements in which Palau obtained its political independence. TradeThe International Monetary Fund (IMF 2006)16 states that 100% of all exports of Palau in recent years were fish. Tuna make up most of the exports of fishery products from Palau. Other items include ornamental fish, giant clams, and trochus.
(16) IMF (2006). Public Information Notice on the Executive Board Discussion and Statement by the Executive Director for the Republic Palau. International Monetary Fund, Washington.Food securityFish is an important element of food security in Palau. Although Palau has a high GDP per capita relative to other countries in the region (USD 7 812), implying considerable ability to purchase food, much of the national prosperity is based on payments from the USA – income that will not continue in perpetuity. This fact, in conjunction with a high per capita consumption of fish, attests to the large importance of fish in national food security.EmploymentThe 2005 census contains some information on employment in fisheries:
Considering the size of the locally-based tuna industry (over 100 vessels, plus processing/shipment facilities) the tuna-related employment is quite small. Gillett (2008)18 tracked the number of people employed in the tuna fisheries of Palau (fishing and post-harvest) over a seven-year period:
Table 7- Employment in the tuna fisheries of Palau
(17) PCS (2000). Profiles of Palau’s Inshore Fisheries, 1989-1998. Palau Conservation Society.
(18) Gillett, R. (2008). A Study of Tuna Industry Development Aspirations of FFA Member Countries. Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara, 70 pages.Rural developmentThe Bureau of Marine Resource of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism has several activities that are relevant to rural development, including placement of two or three fish aggregation devices (FADs) per year, conducting training in fishing around FADs, promotion of ice plants in rural areas, and promotion of clam farming.
The Palau Conservation Society (PCS) carried out the Inshore Sport fishing Development Project, in cooperation with the U.S. government, The Nature Conservancy, and the Palau government. The aim of the project was to conserve and make the best use of the diversity and abundance of Palau’s reef fishes by developing a community-based sportfishing industry, primarily in the non-urban areas of Palau.
Trends, issues and developmentConstraints and opportunitiesSome of the major constraints of the fisheries sector are:
(19) Kuemlangan, B. (2004). Report on Assistance to Palau in Drafting Fisheries Legislation. Technical Cooperation Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.Research, education and trainingResearchA very large number of fisheries research projects have been carried out in Palau. Most areas of Palau and most types of fisheries resources have been covered by various research endeavors. The older research is listed in the Palau Marine Resources Bibliography20. The results of many of the research projects are summarised by resource in the Palau Fisheries Profiles21.
Current fisheries research in Palau by the Bureau of Marine Resource and other government agencies includes research on tuna, bycatch, marine biology of the Northern Reefs, efficacy of several marine protected areas, subsistence fishing, coral disease, vulnerable marine species (crocodiles, dugongs, and sea turtles), and spawning/culture techniques (giant clams, groupers and rabbitfish).
Major issues in fisheries research are translating research needs into research activities, analysis of data, collected by research projects, and funding for research.
Other institutions in Palau carry out research that is relevant to the fisheries sector. This includes the Palau Conservation Society, Palau International Coral Reef Center, the Palau Community College, and The Nature Conservancy.
(20) Izumi, M. (1988). Palau Marine Resources Bibliography. Field Document 88, UNDP Regional Fishery Support Programme, Suva.
(21) Nichols, P. (1991). Republic of Palau Marine Resources Profiles, Fisheries Development Section, Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara.Education and trainingEducation related to fisheries and marine resources in Palau is undertaken in a variety of institutions:
Important donors have included the US Department of the Interior (through Sea Grant), the US Department of Commerce (Saltonstall-Kennedy allocations), the US Peace Corps, the Japanese Government (through the Japan International Cooperation Agency and Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation) and the Pacific Aquaculture Association. Other donors have included UNDP, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
Much of the fisheries sector assistance in the past has been channeled through the Bureau of Marine Resource. Recently the Palau Conservation Society has obtained an increasing amount of marine-related overseas aid.
Private foundations are making significant contributions to marine conservation projects in Palau. These include the MacArthur Foundation, Packard Foundation, and Wallis Foundation that are based in the United States, and the Keidanren Foundation in Japan.
Institutional frameworkFollowing the dissolution of the 1980 Palau Fishing Authority in 1997, the main responsibility for coastal fisheries development and management has been vested in the Bureau of Marine Resource (which formerly concentrated on monitoring, research, and aquaculture). The Bureau is guided primarily by the Marine Protection Act of 1994. The coastal fisheries work mandated by the Act and other legislation is translated into institutional functions through the 1996-2020 Palau National Development Master Plan and the 2001 Bureau of Marine Resource Immediate and Medium Term Plan. However, operational policy is guided by precedent and implemented through the day-to-day decisions of senior BMR staff22.
The mission of the Bureau of Marine Resource (BMR) is to provide support and a favorable environment for the sustainable use of the marine resources of Palau by the subsistence, commercial, mariculture, and recreational sectors for the benefit of the people of Palau. To achieve the aim outlined in its Mission Statement, the Bureau has a work program covering a range of different activities in the field of fisheries and marine conservation. These activities are organized within three branches23:
Other agencies with involvement in the fisheries sector of Palau include:
(22) Source: Palau Coastal Fisheries Action Plan
(23) Source: SPC (2008). The Palau Bureau of Marine Resources. Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea.
Legal frameworkThe main law relevant to the fisheries sector in Palau is the "Marine Protection Act of 1994." The stated purpose of the Act is to promote sustainably and develop the marine resources of the Republic while also preserving the livelihood of the commercial fishermen of the Republic.
The 17-page document defines important terms, specifies certain prohibited acts (the main regulatory provision of the law, see Box), gives the requirements for permits for taking aquarium fish, gives the power to the Minister to make regulations to carry out purposes of the Act, stipulates a requirement regulations for export labeling/reporting, specifies the enforcement provisions, and establishes penalties.
Box 3 - Prohibited acts under the Marine Protection Act of 1994 - Palau -
Some recent events related to the Marine Protection Act of 1994 are:
Bureau of Budget and Planning. 2008. 2006 Statistical Yearbook. Ministry of Finance, Republic of Palau.
Chapman, L. 2004. Nearshore Domestic Fisheries Development in Pacific Island Countries and Territories. Noumea, Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
FAO. 2009. Data from FAO Food Balance Sheet of Fish and Fishery Products (in live weight)(unpublished material).
Forum Fisheries Agency. 2008. The Value of WCPFC Tuna Fisheries. Unpublished report. Honiara, FFA.
Gillett, R. 2009. The Contribution of Fisheries to the Economies of Pacific Island Countriesand Territories. Asian Development Bank, World Bank, ForumFisheries Agency, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and Australian Agency forInternational Development, 362 pp. Pacific Studies Series.
Gillett, R. 2008. A Study of Tuna Industry Development Aspirations of FFA MemberCountries. Honiara, Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara. 70 pp.
International Monetary Fund. 2006. Public Information Notice on the Executive Board Discussion and Statement by the Executive Director for the Republic of Palau. Washington, IMF.
Izumi, M. 1988. Palau Marine Resources Bibliography. Suva, UNDP Regional Fishery Support Programme. Field Document, No. 88.
Kuemlangan, B. 2004. Report on Assistance to Palau in Drafting Fisheries Legislation. Technical Cooperation Programme. Rome, FAO.
Nichols, P. 1991. Republic of Palau Marine Resources Profiles, Fisheries Development Section. Honiara, Forum Fisheries Agency.
Palau Conservation Society. 2000. Profiles of Palau’s Inshore Fisheries, 1989-1998. Palau, PCS.
Palau Coastal Fisheries Action Plan. [nd].
Secretariat of the Pacific Community. 2008. The Palau Bureau of Marine Resources. Noumea, SPC.
World Bank. 2000. Voices from the Village. World Bank, Washington DC. 175 pp. Pacific Island Discussion Paper Series. No. 9.
FAO Thematic data bases
FAO Fisheries statistics