Close to 400 people have signed a petition against the controversial plans of reopening the Palau National Marine Sanctuary to commercial fishing.

Ebiil Society started yesterday a petition in the hope of getting the national government to stop its move to reopen an additional 50%of Palau’s EEZ to foreign fleets.

By 10:30 pm last night, 384 people had signed the petition.

“The Steering Committee of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary is asking you to please sign the petition and help save the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, the largest percentage of fully protected EEZ marine protected areas in the world,” the petition stated.

The petition highlighted that the PNMS was a “massive grassroots initiative,” putting into law ancient Palauan practice of BUL.

Under the PNMS, 80 percent of   Palau EEZ has been designated as a no-take zone, while 20 percent is set aside for the domestic fishing zone.

Proponents to reopen the PNMS, including President Surangel Whipps Jr., said the move is to find additional revenues for the country impacted by COVID -19.

The proponents have also recommended oil exploration in the sanctuary.

 Despite the widespread opposition from the local environment and community groups in Palau, President Whipps said the move to reassess the PNMS had gained support from international environmental groups such as The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International.

“The Sanctuary began as a people’s movement through a petition and quickly gained popular support, sweeping the nation.”

The petition said House Bill No. 11-30-2S would only provide “short-term and marginal profits and has not positively identified any dollar amount in potential revenues. “

“While it is understood that there is a need to seek ways to bolster our revenue earning capacity, short-term solutions should not jeopardize well thought out long-term policy objectives established for our Republic by the Palauan people,” the petition added,

It added that the move to reopen the PNMS  jeopardizes the country’s environmental policy.

“For these reasons, we, the undersigned citizens and voters of the Republic of Palau and others hereby lodge our support for the Sanctuary and to show our opposition to HB 11-30-2S, and to further implore the national government to stop any legislation which would jeopardize the integrity and size of the Sanctuary in what has become an international icon for Palau. “

Next week Palau’ is hosting Our Ocean Conference.

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