A proposed FY 2022 supplemental budget bill may be able to accomplish what a stand-alone House bill to change the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) could not, and that is to change the fundamental approach to the concept of the PNMS.
The supplemental budget bill which was introduced this week by President Surangel Whipps Jr. in both the House and the Senate of the Olbiil Era Kelulau authorizes and appropriates the $2.6 million USD that the government received from environmental conservation groups to replace the “fishing revenue loss” from the closure of 80% of Palau’s EEZ to commercial fishing.
While the proposed supplemental budget bill calls for spatial planning of Palau’s EEZ over a 3-year period, the bill amends the current Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act, giving the Minister of the MAFE the authority to permit fishing within the 80% no-take zone of the PNMS.
“The Minister may authorize and permit marine research activities, including local community-based fishing, within the exclusive economic zone of the Republic,” the proposed amendment states.
Furthermore, it moves the administration and coordination of research, education, and outreach activities related to PNMS and the Domestic Fishing Zone to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Environment (MAFE). Currently, MAFE manages the Domestic Fishing Zone and the activities within that zone. Palau International Coral Reef Center coordinates research, education, and outreach activities related to the PNMS.
After the 3-year spatial planning, according to the bill, MAFE shall recommend, “1) the size and location of a no-take zone Sanctuary within the exclusive economic zone of the Republic, which shall be no less than 30% of the exclusive economic zone designated as a no-take zone, 2) the location and assessment of areas of vulnerable biodiversity, 3) and the location, types, and quantities of domestic fishery production activities that will not threaten the sustainability of fish species found in Palau’s waters.”
The bill also divides up the $2.6 million to the state governments and some of the ministries and agencies such as the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Human Resources, Culture, Tourism & Development.
The fund is not earmarked by the donor or contingent on the implementation of certain laws in order to obtain funding. According to President Whipps’s transmittal letter for the supplemental budget, he said that they have received the 3-year funding. I