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Minister of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism Umiich Sengebau said Palau is looking to tap into environmental finance markets to help the local fishing community and develop domestic fisheries.

Sengebau said there is a plan to provide local fishermen with vessels in line with the designated Domestic Fishing Zone development once the Palau National Marine Sanctuary law takes into effect on January 1, 2020.

“We are looking at all options, we are looking into the Green Climate Fund as potential funding source, we are working with our NGO partners,” Sengebau said.

He also noted that the ongoing discussion regarding the Japan government’s request to fish in Palau’s waters beyond 2020 could be another source of funding.

The Green Climate Fund is an international funding mechanism established at the 2010 UN Climate Conference. It aimed at supporting developing country efforts to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Countries can receive stand-alone grants for simpler projects like well or cistern construction, or loans for more complex projects like the large-scale irrigation systems, either directly from the fund or via accredited implementing agencies, such as FAO.

Ensuring the food security of the communities and improving the livelihood of the small scale fishermen is a climate change issue,

“We are trying to make a case that it is a climate change issue, the reef habitat is the main source of food, in order for us to have access to healthy protein, we need to look at pelagic and we need to have facilities and equipment in order for us to get those fish,” Sengebau said.

He noted that the PNMS is not only aiming to protect the country’s marine resources from depletion but to help ecosystems recover and improve food security for fishing communities.

Sengebau said new boats would last longer and help local fishermen travel a longer distance to be able to fish.

He said that some vessels of local fishermen are not equipped to go that far, nor some of the boats have storage facilities to allow them to stay at sea for longer days.

Under the MNRET Tuna Fisheries 2017-2021 Strategic Plan, it envisions “sustainable fishery providing seafood for local and tourist markets.

Enacted in October 2015, the law sets aside 500,000 square kilometers or 80 percent of its maritime waters for full protection with the rest set aside as domestic fishing zone.

Exports of fish caught in the domestic fishing zone will be prohibited.  (By Bernadette H. Carreon)