"The Republic of Palau is a special place. An archipelago of hundreds of islands spread across the north-western Pacific ocean, Palau is home to more than 1,300 species of fish, 700 species of coral, and an estimated 130 species of rare sharks and stingrays. Its pristine reefs support more coral fish and other invertebrates per square mile than anywhere else on Earth. Its waters contain one of the largest portions of endemic species in the world, seven of the nine known giant clam species, the most marine lakes per mile of territory, the most isolated Dugong (Seacow) population, and some of the world’s most extensive seagrass beds. This vibrant biodiversity and incredible beauty make Palau one of National Geographic's “Last Great Places on Earth”, CNN Traveler's best island destination, and a top 10 Ethical Traveler destination for three consecutive years.
Palauan leaders have long understood that they are the stewards of this rich endowment, and that the country’s past, present, and future are inextricably linked to the health of its natural environment. For centuries, local chiefs balanced community needs with environmental preservation by declaring a “Bul” - a moratorium - when necessary to sustain a resource. Reefs, for example, would be deemed off limits during spawning and feeding periods so that the ecosystem could replenish itself and fish stocks would remain abundant. Certain areas were also given permanent protection because of their important biodiversity.
This traditional ethos is commonly referred to today as an ecosystem approach to sustainable development. It is uniquely enshrined in Palauan law: Article 6 of Palau’s Constitution, which sets out the responsibilities of the national government, requires the government to “take positive action” to conserve “a beautiful, healthful and resourceful natural environment.”
Given this cultural and political mandate, Palauan Presidents have established some of the world’s most progressive environmental policies, such as:
-Creation of the world’s first shark sanctuary, sparking a global movement to protect sharks
-The Micronesian Challenge to effectively conserve at least 30% of near-shore marine resources and 20% of the terrestrial resources
-The Protected Areas Network, a national framework for community-based conservation
-Stringent regulations outlawing bottom trawling."