Fish populations in Palau are gradually beginning to recover from decades of overfishing, according to a study released by the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC).
"The results from this study indicate that reef fish biomass in the fished waters of Palau is still generally low in comparison to local (Marine Protected Areas) and theoretical estimates of productivity," PICRC said, "however, the increase in herbivores over time could be an indication that fish stocks are starting to recover."
The biomass of herbivorous fish was found to have increased significantly since PICRC’s previous 2017 survey, a good sign, as herbivores control algae on reefs and create space for young corals to grow.
The report also identifies “hot spots” of high fish biomass in the northern reefs, and in the south near Peleliu and Angaur.
The study found that out of eight species surveyed for spawning potential, six were found to produce enough offspring to naturally maintain their population size. In 2017, only four of six species surveyed met this threshold.
Herbivorous fish are vital for regulating the abundance of macroalgae and turf algae on coral reefs, while predatory fishes are important for maintaining prey populations, the study said.
Overfishing of these groups can lead to the degradation of these key ecosystem functions.