Ngemai Reef, off Palau’s Babeldaob Island, was once a rich and abundant source of underwater life. One notable species was the sea urchin, a delicacy known in Palau as ichubel. A recent underwater survey of the reef, however, found not a single ichubel. In response to alarm over the state of Ngemai’s marine resources, the Ngemai Conservation Area was established in June 1997. Modeled after the ancient Palauan custom of bul, it banned harvesting fish or other marine organisms from the area for at least five years. Illegal fishing is still a problem, however. Local people need training and equipment to monitor the area effectively.
With the help of the Palau Conservation Society, this project has helped fund the purchase and installation of 16 buoys and signs to mark the boundaries of the protected area. The Seacology grant is also funding training for two rangers from the community to monitor the area.