[ 'The Yellow Sea horse' - Digital Art Photo by BRM ]

Micronesia

Palau is the world's number one dive destination for sports divers. Every dive magazine poll taken for the last 10 years has given these islands that ranking. The 1,500 species of fish and 800 species of coral makes this country attractive to both the tourist and the collector. The place is incredible. We have been informed by our friends in Palau that there will be a TV show - 'Survivor Palau' aired in 2005.

That first stay on the island of Palau (during our 1992 'vacation trip') we met with the people there who had a marine export operation. I took them up on their employment offer for many reasons, not the least of which - the island was a territory of the U.S. at the time. Three months after our first visit to Palau we had made our move to the island from Miami, and six months later ended up with the company under our own control.

[ Palau Biotech Marine Tropicals - Fish Holding Facility ]

Our most important work in Micronesia was the pioneering of large scale cultured coral production. The cultivated corals were produced for the aquarium trade - but they could have just as easily have been used to replenish natural reef systems damaged by El Nino or any other disaster. What I had learned in the cultivation of tropical plants when I was in the tropical foliage business, I was able to apply to these 'underwater plants' - the marine corals. The government had a 'clam farm' on the island too - so we were able to purchase and include their cultivated Tridacna Clams in our shipments to the marine aquarium trade in the States. Things went well for a couple years, but when Palau gained independence from the U.S. there was a lot of bureaucratic confusion that made exports very difficult. In dollars and cargo volume we were the second largest export company of any and all commodities from the country. We had 32 employes and had more native islanders on our pay role then any other export company. But regulation and red tape was causing us big losses and we told the country's government that the company would be shut down until we had their cooperation again.

[ Outdoor Invert System & Dive Crew ]

So during the wait we worked out a contract with the country's largest resort, Palau Pacific Resort, to retrofit their enormous artificial saltwater lagoon and their big fresh water pond. The engineers who built the facilities had no idea what they were doing, from a biological stand point. They thought you just build a couple big swimming pools and throw the fish in - nature will take its course. But they found out that nothing would stay alive - except a couple big Stingrays. I tried to explain the dynamics of thermoclines, surface gas exchange, nitrogen cycles, and ecological communities. They just smiled, nodded their heads as polite Japanese do (this is a Japanese company) and said; "Your plan - we do no believe it will work". The manager of the resort was an America (David Fineberg) and had seen the extensive marine holding facilities I had built for our export company. He had the last word and we got the contract. When it was done they had an artificial salt water lagoon with thousands of fish, clams, corals, plants, and other invertebrates living together - very happily and healthy. The freshwater pond was redone to include a large biological filtration system, an attractive waterfalls, and stocked with many native fish, plants, and invertebrates from the island's streams. The freshwater system was done in slow stages until there was an integrated and mature ecological system. The marine lagoon was a flow-through system, with skimmers, surface jets, and a big fountain in the deepest part to both oxygenate and circulate that area.

[ Jungle Falls & Pond - 'Palau Pacific Resort' ]

>>> If you would like to read an essay I wrote on how to collect marine tropical fish, click here: 'Fish Cowboys'

>>> If you would like to review the report I wrote for the INOKI FOUNDATION about the importance of using cultivated corals for the replenishment of coral reefs, click here: 'Corals, Climate, and Carbon Dioxide'

And the government was still stalling - so off to Vietnam!