APIA, 04 SEPTEMBER 2017 (PACIFIC NOTE) — Vice President Raynold Oilouch Palau is leading a delegation in the 48th Pacific Islands Forum, which is slated to open today until September 8.

This year’s theme: The Blue Pacific: Our Sea of Islands-Our Security through sustainable development, management and conservation according to Oilouch is in line with Palau’s ocean conservation efforts. [restrict]

Palau is in the forefront of ocean management and conservation in the region as it prepares to close down 80 percent of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by 2020.

“Oceans is a very critical component and surveillance of our jurisdictions,” Oilouch said in an interview.

With Palau closing its EEZ to commercial fishing, it is bound to faces challenges with the limited capacity to police its waters.

Samoa is hosting this year’s forum with Pacific Forum leaders focusing oceans managemen and protecting the ocean from exploitation through conservation and effective surveillance.

Oilouch as head of Palau delegation will sit in the Maritime Domain Awareness dialogues panel set on Thursday by the forum.

Oilouch said the big push now the maritime surveillance to combat IUU, strengthening the compliance and surveillance on the fisheries.

Forum Members comprise of Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu French Polynesia and New Caledonia.

Oilouch said other issues that will be discussed during the forum would be climate change, achieving the UN sustainable goal no. 14 on oceans management.

“Climate change continues to be a regional priority,” he added.

There are other issues that are expected to be pushed in the forum especially Small Island States (SIS) regional strategy, which Palau is a member as well.

“This is the time again to reflect on the unfinished business and what needs to be done and how best we can progress the issue to the benefit of the region” he said.

The first day of the forum will be the SIS meeting.

The bloc of small island states is comprised of Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Tuvalu and its new member Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).

The key priorities of the SIS is on climate change, sustainable transport, insurance facility and infrastructure resiliency to fight the impacts of climate change.

Palau and the smaller island states, Oilouch said have unique vulnerabilities.

“We need the extra help, all our needs are very different,  the regional strategy is to ensure SIS are not left behind because of its capacity constraint,” Oilouch added….PACNEWS  [/retrict]