“We are a small island nation but we are proud that we hold the cradle of life, and because we have this, the world is here to see it,” said Reklai Bao Ngirmang, Paramount Chief at a meeting with fishermen.

“I am sad that this being the 7th Our Ocean Conference, with the leaders of the whole world gathered in Palau talking about the protection of the ocean, and here we raise this idea to kill it,” added Reklai of the proposal to re-open Palau to long-line and purse seine fishing.

Palau Council of Chiefs (Rubekul Belau) all signed a statement declaring their opposition to the plan to re-open Palau’s National Marine Sanctuary’s 80% No-Take-Zone.

“Science tells us that our world has to fully-protect at least 30% of our world’s oceans by 2030 for life on our planet earth to survive.  And yet we are nowhere near that target.  Without MPAs like PNMS, it is not only Palau who is at risk but our entire world,” stated the letter.

Former President Madrengebuked Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. said that the plan to close 80% was a grassroots movement with Palau chiefs declaring the “bul”, state government, and people pushing the national congress and president to sign it into law.

The 80% breed and grows the fish which spills over to the 20% where the fishermen catch the fish.  It’s better to have 80% spilling into 20% than 20% spilling into 80%

President Surangel Whipps Jr. in his statements during the 7th Ocean Conference called for management of the resources of the small island states not only for conservation but for production.

“I wish Ted came to Palau seven years ago,” Whipps said during the conversation on Partnerships for Ocean, referring to Mr. Waitt’s programs with other island countries to develop their MPAs.  “That’s where we need to develop a sustainable ocean plan, that’s really the key,” implying that PNMS which was enacted 7 years ago did not have a sustainable plan.

“We are not just talking about the dollar signs only, we are also talking about the quality of life and the security our people need to have so that we can continue to feed ourselves and the next generation to come,” said Remengesau.

“It is our responsibility as leaders of these islands to join the people of the world and take the initiative and be proactive.  And to declare our existential responsibility to preserve and protect our ocean.,” said former President Johnson Toribiong.

“We stand firm in our belief that Bul works.  It works because its function is governed by the underlying principles of our tradition and enshrined in Article V, Section 2 of our Constitution.” added the statement from the Chiefs.

Public protests have been staged during the last two days around the activities of the 7th Our Ocean Conference against the planned proposal to resize Palau’s National Marine Sanctuary’s No-Take-Zone from 80% down to 30% and allow commercial fishing and oil exploration as determined in a spatial planning and management use for the area.

“You are now faced with the challenge,  a Palau challenge to protect what is still yours.  Forty-five years ago, the waters around Palau came close to being destroyed in a significant way when a superport that might have been put into place by those who only saw money, only saw commercial potential, as a superport where large vessels transporting oils across the countries of the world with stopping place right there, in Palau, in Koror.  It did not happen because the children of Palau, the people who valued those things that we cannot recreate once they are gone, we can destroy them or we can protect them.

This is a moment in time, a crossroads in time. Climate change is a real threat, protecting the ocean is a real solution.  Protecting ocean wildlife affects the climate. It’s called blue carbon.  Understand this, get others, get your communities, get your elders, to take the Palau Pledge, to protect what is not theirs to give, to harm not those that do not harm us.  I wholeheartedly support what you are doing,” said Sylvia Earl in a video message to the protestors.

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