Palau readies for marine sanctuary in 2020

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Spotted sweetlips in Palau Photo: Richard Brooks/ The Pew Charitable Trusts

Palau is gearing up for the implementation of its long-heralded marine reserve, which comes into effect this year.

Legislation for the sanctuary was passed four years ago to come into effect in 2020.

The Palau National Marine Sanctuary will cover an area of about 500,000 square kilometres – the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The sanctuary places a ban on any extractive activities, including fishing, mining, trans-shipment and shark finning, among others.

President Tommy Remengesau said he was happy that the pioneering initiative would finally “come into fruition”.

“It is a very ambitious and worthy goal for Palau’s future.

“Hopefully the marine sanctuary will always stand as a reminder [that] we have to live and respect the environment because the environment is the nest of life, and without the next nobody in Palau can survive,” Mr Remengesau said.

The President of Palau Tommy Remengesau Jr. Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka’uta

Eighty percent of the designated zone will be a no-take marine protected area, but fishing will be allowed, under strict conditions in the remaining 20 percent.

Some foreign vessels will be allowed to fish in this zone, but Environment Minister Umiich Sengebau said they would be required to offload all catch within Palau.

He believed Palau would have the means to police the zone.

The sanctuary will fully protect about 80 percent of the nation’s maritime territory. Photo: The Pew Charitable Trusts

“Palau still has to enforce its vast exclusive economic zone, but fortunately because of the partnership that we established…we have another vessel now.

“And then we get the new one from Australia sometime in summer, so that’s certainly an addition that will help us in managing this area.”

Although the law was signed in 2015, the policy called for a transition period to allow the government and stakeholders to prepare for the changes.