Palau President: 'The Ocean Is A Way Of Life'

Remengesau: Ocean 'represents culture ... is vital to our livelihood and economy'

By Christy Sakaziro, Project Director - Micronesian Humanities

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 15, 2016) – Palau President Tommy Remengesau believes that the ocean is a way of life — it represents culture, and is vital to our livelihood and economy.

Remengesau has led the world in protecting the ocean. Under his administration, Palau is now a marine sanctuary where all commercial fishing is prohibited. In 2009, his predecessor, Johnson Toribiong, declared the country’s territorial waters a shark sanctuary.

Since that time, other countries followed suit and have created their shark sanctuaries, including the Maldives, Honduras, the Marshall Islands and French Polynesia.

Based on the latest research, overfishing and shark finning may result in more greenhouse gasses and increased climate change. The importance of protecting our ocean and the key role played by sharks in the marine ecosystem must be taught to the community.

The findings of a research team led by Dr. Rick Stafford from the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences at Bournemouth University in England showed that the removal of top predators, including sharks, from the marine ecosystem results in a higher biomass of prey animals, greater levels of respiration and as such, higher overall levels of carbon dioxide. The team believes that negative media reports on shark attacks, along with a lack of knowledge of marine ecosystems, have resulted in limited public support for marine conservation.

Dr. Stafford said: “We hope that [our] study will help people understand the importance of the marine environment — and that protecting it can have important effects on seemingly unrelated processes such as climate change.”

He said their research “really demonstrates the far reaching consequences of overfishing and of barbaric practices like shark finning which has become big business in recent years, driven by the demand for shark-fin soup in the Far East. We need to be much more aware of the importance of marine ecosystems and how they can affect all of us.”

For his part, President Remengesau said the health of oceans affects countries in a variety of ways, from rising sea levels to ocean acidification and unpredictable weather.  

“It doesn’t matter where one lives around the world,” he added. “All people are connected and are impacted by what they do to the oceans and the health of the oceans and the seas. It is important that the United Nations in the next Millennium Development Goals should really put a stand-alone policy into action.”

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