Graduate Project


The role of women in the fisheries of Palau Public Deposited

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  • 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 subsistence use. 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.
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