Palau Conservation Society Lauds Marine Sanctuary

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

President congratulated for efforts to preserve ocean

By Jose Rodriguez T. Senase

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Feb. 4, 2016) – A noted conservationist has lauded Pres. Remengesau for establishing the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS).

The PNMS became a law last October 2015. The phase-by-phase implementation of the PNMS has started.

The PNMS closes 80 percent of the island nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ ) to commercial fishing.

In his letter to Pres. Remengesau, Dr. Minoru Ueki, Chairman of the Palau Conservation Society (PCS) Board of Directors, said the PNMS is Palau’s contribution to the effort to protect the world’s oceans. The letter was dated January 15, 2016.

"As one conservationist to another, let me extend my congratulations to you on the designation of Palau’s National Marine Sanctuary," the first part of the letter reads.

Ueki noted that the protection of the world’s oceans is a shared responsibility.

"Protecting the world’s oceans is a shared responsibility of the world’s nations and people. We Palauans, must do our part to ensure that this global resource which is vital to our national, economic, and cultural interest is safeguarded into the future," he stressed.

But Ueki pointed out that conferring protection on a resource is only part of the solution to a healthy global ocean.

"But conferring protection status on a resource is only part of the solution to guaranteeing a healthy marine environment in Palau and ultimately a healthy global ocean," he said.

"The other part of the solution involves day to day management and enforcement to ensure that the goals of the Sanctuary are met. While this may not engender headlines in the news; it, like the work of other conservationist initiatives in Palau is vitally important to the livelihoods of the Palauan people," he added.

Ueki noted that many challenges lie along along the way.

"However, oftentimes the very people who are in the frontlines of these initiatives lack the funding resources or technical capacity to advance this important work. This is a problem that plagues the conservation and environmental sector in Palau," he said.

"Agencies and organizations that have the technical capacity are hard-pressed to secure funding support to meet their program needs. In other cases certain programs have access to funding but lack the technical capacity to optimize their funding resources to ensure the full range of environmental and social impacts that their program can deliver," Ueki added.

Ueki said PCS is no stranger to the problem.

"We feel this problem keenly at the Palau Conservation Society. For over 21 years, PCS and partners have been toiling to secure funding to catalyze and sustain our community’s stewardship efforts. And yet the outcomes of these efforts which include functioning ecosystems that ensure much-needed goods and services are barely acknowledged much less supported," he noted.

"This is unfortunate because healthy ecosystems are essential to our livelihoods and are key enabling conditions of Palau’s development goals," Ueki added.

In other countries in the world, according to Ueki, key sectors whose inputs into society are as critical as the conservation/environment sector is to Palau, are gven subsidies to ensure that the service they provide is not reduced or lost.

Ueki said that examples of this include farming subsidies in Japan, US, and Europe.

"I believe that Palau can learn from this example and create something innovative that is befitting of our status as a global leader in the environment conservation movement," he said.

"As such, I believe that it is time that Palau gave conservation subsidies to organizations such as PCS whose work is integral to Palau’s conservation and natural resource management success," he added.

Ueki pointed pointed out that a conservation subsidy will address the systemic capacity issues in Palau’s environmental sector because it can fill existing national and state agency management gaps in the environmental sector by allowing for the consistent and targeted engagement of non-governmental organizations in these endeavors.

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