15 Of 16 Governors Support Palau Marine Sanctuary

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‘Immediate action needed to address declining fish stocks’

By Jose Rodriguez T. Senase

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, April 13, 2015) – Fifteen of sixteen governors in this island nation are backing the plan to create a National Marine Sanctuary.

In their letter to President Remengesau dated January 26, 2015, the governors said the proposed marine sanctuary will be good for the people of Palau and all sixteen states.

The letter was signed by Governors Temmy Shmull of Peleliu, Leilani Reklai of Aimeliik, Browny Salvador of Ngarchelong, Jeffrey Titiml of Kayangel, Aloysius Tellei of Melekeok, Ellender Ngirameketii of Ngiwal, Duane Hideo of Ngchesar, Wilson Ongos of Ngaremlengui, Renguul Masahiro of Ngardmau, Tmewang Rengulbai of Airai, Isaac Bai of Ngaraard, Jersey Iyar of Ngatpang, Marvin Ngirutang of Angaur, and Thomas Patris of Hatohobei.

Then Governor Jacob Yangilmau of Sonsorol also signed the letter. Yangilmau, who resigned from office in February of this year, was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Damien Albis, who is believed to be supportive of the sanctuary plan.

Only Koror State Governor Yositaka Adachi did not sign the letter. It is not clear what is the reason of Adachi for opposing the marine sanctuary plan.

"He is hedging," said a person with intimate knowledge of the issue. Island Times was not able to get Adachi’s reason for opposing such initiative as of press time.

The Governors said in their letter noted the acute problem of dwindling fish resources.

"There is no doubt that over the years we have seen fewer and fewer fish in our state waters. At the same time we have seen an increase in fish prices at the local fish markets. This has forced our people to rely on imported and less healthy foods that are cheaper to feed their families with. The preservation of our culture and our health required that we take steps to increase our fish stocks and thereby lower prices of fish for our citizens," they stated.

The Governors said immediate action is needed to address declining fish stocks.

"While we understand that the Sanctuary does not cover our state waters, we do believe that the health of the Ocean in our state waters is being threatened. Moreover, our traditions taught us that we must respect the Ocean and take action to temporarily stop fishing if there are signs that fish stocks are under threat. Clearly our fish stocks are under threat," they added.

The Governors stated that the sanctuary plan will reverse the trend of declining fish stocks.

"The Marine Sanctuary will therefore help replenish our Oceans while making more fish available for locals. It makes sense both environmentally and economically. Moreover, under new legislation funding to the states will not be reduced; in fact under existing treaties and through enhanced tourism like catch and release fishing, our state revenues could actually increase. Therefore, we collectively express our unconditional support to the proposed Marine Sanctuary legislation pending in the National Congress," they further stated.

The proposal on the National Marine Sanctuary put forward by President Remengesau includes a complete prohibition on purse seine fishing that covers 100 percent of the EEZ; a no-take Marine Sanctuary that covers over 80 percent of the Palau EEZ; a highly regulated Fishing Zone that covers approximately 20 percent of the EEZ that will provide for only Palau’s domestic fishing needs; and a prohibition on commercial fish exports.

The proposal to create a Palau National Marine Sanctuary has been introduced and pending in the Senate as Senate Bill No. 9-30.

The plan is also backed by the Palau Chamber of Commerce, Council of Chiefs, state legislatures, Belau Boaters Association, Palau Sports Fishing Association, Northern Reef Fisheries Alliance, Ocean Elders (comprised of many prominent international figures like Queen Noor of Jordan, Prince Albert of Monaco, CNN founder Ted Turner and others), National Geographic, RMI President Christopher Loeak, and many others.

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