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Palau

Ngemai Reef

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Conservation benefit: Support for Ngemai No-Take Marine Reserve

Community benefit: Demarcation buoys, signage, and training for local rangers monitoring the reserve

Date Approved: 12.1999

Ocean

This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

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.

Project Updates

July 2005

The legislature decided not to reinstate Ngemai as a conservation area in late 2003. In spite of these setbacks, PCS has continued to work to keep Ngemai as a conservation area and plans to hold community meetings in the second half of 2005 to encourage efforts for maintaining protections.

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November 2003

The legislative protection for Ngemai expired in mid-2002. However, the traditional Bul protection imposed by the chiefs has remained in effect. PCS has drafted a comprehensive “reef to ridge” conservation program at Ngemai, and hopes to have the plan adopted by the legislature at their upcoming session.

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