On October 28, 2015, Tommy E. Remengesua, Jr., President of the Republic of Palau signed into law the “Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act,” creating “the sixth largest marine protected area in the world, while setting aside a zone for domestic fishing.” According to Nature Conservancy Palau supports more than 400 species of coral species and nearly 1,300 varieties of reef fish.
On October 28, 2015, Tommy E. Remengesua, Jr., President of the Republic of Palau signed into law the “Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act,” creating “the sixth largest marine protected area in the world, while setting aside a zone for domestic fishing.”
In his letter to Palau Senate President Chin, Remengesua writes that the “people have come together to support the protection of our source of livelihood, identity and culture: our Ocean.
“Shifting our way of thinking,” his letter continues, “from merely allowing foreign interests to continue to harvest our limited resources; to protecting them for future generations is a necessary step we must take.”
“Science has also shown that by creating marine protected areas and allowing the marine life in those areas to regenerate, the ‘spill over’ also promotes the health of surrounding areas. Declaring 80% of our EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone] will allow the marine life in that are to rebound and spill over into the 20% domestic fishing area where our local fishermen can then harvest them. This will alleviate some of the fishing pressure on our near shore reefs as well as create a healthy marine environment for our growing diving and sport-fishing industry.”
President Obama to the 2015 Our Ocean Conference
Many partners and previous Palauan endeavors are credited with making the Palau National Marine Sanctuary possible. Among them, the Nature Conservancy which says it has worked with Palau leaders and agencies for 25 years during which it supported the government in its work “as a key driver” of the creation of the Micronesian Challenge.
A National Geographic Society Report, “Marine Biodiversity and Protected Areas in Palau,” published in May, 2015, helped provide background for the establishment of the sanctuary. This Report on open ocean fishes around Palau and their survey of the surrounding sea down to 3,500m revealed “a diverse fish fauna including numerous sharks and schools of tunas. The number of species and individuals observed were comparable to the 640,000 km2 Chagos Marine Reserve in the Indian Ocean.
The Report stated that creation of a sanctuary around Palau would provide protection for these valuable pelagic resources, allowing them to grow larger, become more abundant, and generate higher reproductive output…This would benefit the fishing within and around Palau, and protect biodiversity by reducing by-catch of a wide range species critical to ecosystem function.
“Our deep-sea video cameras showed a diverse and rich fauna that included at least 26 different taxa of deep-water fishes from 19 families.”
In another major effort, Palau, writes Remengesua, created the world’s first Shark Sanctuary and has been declared a World Heritage Site.
The National Geographic Society Report can be read at http://palaugov.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/NAT-GEO-REPORT_PALAU_MAY_12_SING_LORES_RGB.pdf. It contains many pictures along with descriptions of their findings.
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