Palau National Marine Sanctuary
(Oct. 22, 2015) The Palau Congress today approved the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act, which will establish one of the world's largest protected areas of ocean in the Pacific island nation's waters. President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. said he would sign the measure into law as early as Monday as Friday is a national holiday in Palau.
"Today is a historic day for Palau, proving that a small island nation can have a big impact on the ocean," President Remengesau said.
"Island communities have been among the hardest hit by the threats facing the ocean," he continued. "Creating this sanctuary is a bold move that the people of Palau recognize as essential to our survival. We want to lead the way in restoring the health of the ocean for future generations."
"The Palau National Marine Sanctuary will help build a secure future for the Palauan people by honoring the conservation traditions of our past," said Senator Hokkons Baules, lead sponsor of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act.
Often cited as an "underwater wonder of the world," the ocean that surrounds Palau boasts remarkably healthy marine ecosystems that are home to more than 1,300 species of fish and 700 species of coral.
The legislation creating the sanctuary designates 80 percent of the nation's maritime territory as a fully protected marine reserve in which no extractive activities, such as fishing or mining, can take place. At 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles), or slightly larger than the U.S. state of California, the sanctuary becomes the sixth-largest fully protected marine area in the world.
About 20 percent of Palau's waters will become a domestic fishing zone reserved for local fishermen and small-scale commercial fisheries with limited exports. This transformation of Palau's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) will take place over a five-year period, during which the number of licenses sold to foreign commercial vessels will be decreased annually. The nation's coastal waters, an area of 12 nautical miles around each of the 250 islands, will continue to be managed by Palau's 16 states.
"In its 20-year history as an independent nation, Palau has developed a remarkable conservation legacy, including creation of the world's first shark sanctuary in 2009," said Joshua S. Reichert, who leads environment initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew provided technical support for establishment of both the shark sanctuary and the Palau National Marine Sanctuary. "Palau's decision is an acknowledgment of the intensely close relationship between the Palauan people and the ocean that surrounds them, a relationship often expressed as 'Palau is ocean and ocean is Palau.' "
The marine sanctuary law also strengthens efforts to prevent illegal fishing by significantly tightening rules for vessels passing through Palau's waters. It requires expeditious passage of nonlicensed fishing boats through the EEZ, appropriate vessel monitoring systems (VMS) on all ships, stowage of fishing gear, and stronger reporting requirements. Establishing the sanctuary also will make it easier to identify and stop poaching because the restrictions on commercial activity simplify detection.
28 Oct 2015 - Palau's President Tommy Remengesau signed the sanctuary into law. After the full sanctuary is phased in the next five years, the remaining 20 percent of the country's waters will be reserved for fishing by local individual and small-scale commercial fisheries. The large fleets of foreign trawlers that dominate fishing throughout most of the Pacific will be banned.
22 Oct 2015 - Palau's Congress passed the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act with the signing of the law on Oct 28, 2015.
President Remengesau unveiled the design for the proposed Palau National Marine Sanctuary. In October 2014, legislation was introduced in the Palau Senate and in August 2015, the Palau House announced a companion bill. The proposal is expected to advance in the next legislative session with full designation in 2016.
From Palau Oceans website:
Palau is poised to make history by establishing the world’s first Nation-wide Marine Sanctuary – designating its entire ocean territory as a regenerative zone for sharks, whales, tuna, and countless other precious species.
This is a bold vision to reverse the oceans’ degradation from industrial fishing and to protect one of the last great places on Earth, and we know it can work. Palau declared the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009. Today, 10 countries have followed Palau's lead, creating 4.9 million square miles of shark sanctuary. Others have followed suit with similarly important shark protections. Palau showed that it was possible. Its small spark ignited massive global action.
As you can see from the news reports, the idea of a National Marine Sanctuary is even more powerful. Palau Oceans was established to support programs in Palau that will help make the National Marine Sanctuary a reality and pave the way to restoring healthy oceans globally.
Senate Repeals and Replaces EIF With Palau Visitor's Fee (March 22, 2017) Pacific Note
Palau's plans to ban commercial fishing could set precedent for tuna industry (26 Mar 2014) The Guardian