[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Reef fisheries have large financial value to local tourism


SAIPAN - Besides its ecological use, Saipan's reef fisheries also have a high financial value particularly in the tourism industry, upon which the Commonwealth's dwindling economic revenues are profoundly dependent.

Dr. Peter Houk, chief biologist for the Pacific Marine Resources Institute, said yesterday that the latest study they conducted "put a dollar value" on the coral reefs around the island based on how much money and time a tourist would spend during their stay, including airport landing fees, hotel expenses, and other related costs.

Speaking before the Rotary Club of Saipan at the Hyatt Regency Saipan, Houk disclosed that Mañagaha has the highest value among the island's reefs, with the biggest number of tourists visiting the island for its water activities.

Surprisingly, Houk said, Laolao Bay, despite its declining health, is the second most valuable reef, representing a value between $300,000 to $400,000 per square kilometer.

The reefs' direct relation to the tourism industry reinforces the need to promote sustainable fishing on the islands to ensure not only its health but also livelihoods in the long run, according to Houk, who attended the meeting with PMRI's first executive director Greg Moretti,

Hook called for better enforcement of fishing regulations, limiting fish sizes in the market, and implementing a quota system that ensures a peer-to-peer check and balance system, all of which are aimed at preserving the long-term profitability of the CNMI's reef fisheries.

Houk led the team that conducted the study, called "Commercial Coral-Reef Fisheries Across Micronesia: A Need for Improving Management," which was done with other scientists from different government organizations, universities, and non-profit groups. The team included Dr. Jenny McIlwain, Dr. Kevin Rhodes, Dr. Steve Lindfeld, Javier Cuetos-Bueno, Vanessa Fread, and other marine biology interns.

The study, conducted in 2009 to 2010, involved surveying four major fish markets in the CNMI and measuring over 20,000 fish. It revealed "remarkable trends" about the Commonwealth's coral reef fisheries in contrast to other jurisdictions in Micronesia.

For one, Houk said that the "vast majority" of the fish harvested in the CNMI were captured before they had the chance to reproduce or have offspring. For example, average size of unicorn fish harvested on Saipan is between 20 to 25 centimeters or smaller than the recommended 30 to 35 cm.

The size of a fish, Houk said, does not only denote a bigger reproductive output but also a better ecological efficiency since bigger fish are able to clean eight times the area of a coral reef than that of a smaller fish.

Houk also noted that the composition of the CNMI's fish catches is dominated by parrotfish and unicorn fish-the same kind of fish catches in Guam where scuba fishing is allowed.

According to Houk, there should be higher proportions of surgeon fish than parrotfish or unicorn fish in CNMI catches, given that only free diving is allowed on the islands. This indicates that majority of fish here are being caught through the illegal use of scuba equipment.

The composition trend, he added, also proves that the CNMI is "fishing down the food chain," which is not a sign of sustainable fishing as well.

Houk pointed out that he has brought up this issue with the government, including some lawmakers and related agencies. At present, he said PMRI wants to get the information out to the public to increase their awareness about the importance of caring for the islands' fisheries.

Recent Activity:

Stay on top of your group activity without leaving the page you're on - Get the Yahoo! Toolbar now.




Post a Comment