- A team of three people at the Republic of Palau Division of Marine Resources interviewed 54
women in seven of Palau's 16 states in a three-month study to determine the role of women
in nearshore fisheries. The interviews, which generally lasted over an hour each, found that
most of the women surveyed use low-technology methods to collect invertebrates and fish
from nearshore areas within the barrier reef at low tide. Most women do not own boats and
reach collecting areas by foot or bamboo raft. Reef gleaning at low tide for invertebrates is
the most common collection method used by these women. Other activities are mangrove
clam collection; fishing at night with a torch and a spear; land, mangrove and coconut crab
collection and fishing with hook and line, seine, surround and cast nets. Very few women
use a speargun to catchfish. Women often collect marine species accompanied by friends and
children. Many also fish with their husbands and combine their catch for marketing.
The women interviewed regularly collect eight species of sea cucumbers, four species of sea
urchins, seven species of molluscs, three species of crabs and more than 15 species of fish.
When they can be found, many other invertebrate species are collected, especially for
Seventy-six percent of the women interviewed regularly sell a part of their catch in several
markets and restaurants in the main population center of Koror. Twenty-four percent of the
women collect for subsistence purposes alone. All women interviewed keep at least part of
their catch for their family, relatives and friends. In addition, thirty-six percent of the women
interviewed process and/or market fish and crabs caught by a male relative.
Availability of transportation to the markets and restaurants in Koror is the most common
problem facing women from states to the north of town who sell their catch. Three of the
states surveyed are accessible only by boat. Transportation to the collecting areas is also a
problem for the women who have poor access to boats. Storage and processing facilities (i.e.,
freezers and smokehouses) are rare in the villages where this study was conducted. Many
women would like to market more than they do but lack the facilities to store and prepare
quality seafood products. Most of the species women collect, sea cucumbers in particular,
have low market value. In addition, there are no set prices per pound for invertebrate species
and women are paid inconsistent prices by the bag, jar or bottle.
Environmental problems, such as fishing pressure on the limited resources of the increasingly
populated areas around Koror and habitat loss throughout the surveyed states due to
development and reef dredging activities may be affecting the resources women collect.
Ninety-three percent of the women interviewed were able to name at least one species that is
harder to find now than it was sometime in the past. Larger scale operations that harvest giant clams and deep water sea cucumbers for export as beche de mer may also impact the
nearshore resources women rely on.
The following recommendations are proposed to aid the development and management of the
nearshore resources collected by women:
(1) Initiate a year-long fisheries development project to continue the work of this
preliminary three-month study to: (a) verify the survey results and determine
those species most suitable for the project through a more intensive restaurant
and market survey; and (b) select and assist one or two women's groups who
have shown interest and initiative in developing their processing and marketing
skills to develop a higher quality product at more competitive prices.
(2) Conduct a survey of the nearshore marine resources and habitats around Palau
to determine the status of the stock of invertebrate species. This survey should
include a survey of the users of those resources as well.
(3) Develop a handbook of the invertebrate species found around Palau at low tide
to be used in community outreach and education programs, in school science
programs and by visiting and local scientists. This handbook could also be
offered for sale to tourists and other visitors.