The government of Palau is partnering with the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) and the Stanford Ocean Solutions to co-develop science-based policy recommendations and options supporting the implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS).

The collaboration will help build the capacity and expertise for the successful implementation of the PNMS law, which will take effect on January 1, 2020.

“The overall goal of this partnership is to provide leaders and policymakers with a portfolio of coastal and pelagic policy and management options that are designed for the ecological, social and economic well-being of Palauans in the near and long-term,” stated the Memorandum of Understanding signed on Friday  by Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism (MNRET), PICRC and Stanford University.

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. signed the PNMS into law Oct. 28, 2015, which fully protect an area of about 500,000 square kilometers or 80 percent of the country’s EEZ. The same law designates the remaining 20 percent of the EEZ for Palau’s domestic market.

Jim Leape, Director of the Stanford Ocean Solutions said during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Friday said, “Palau is showing the rest of the world that it is preserving its marine resources.”

He said that the long-term collaboration would ensure that Palau protects its natural resources and address the issues and challenges that the country may face in the implementation of the PNMS.

The science-based policy is also geared towards addressing the likely ecological, cultural and economic effects of protection of 80 percent of the EEZ and the likely effects on regional fish stocks, nearshore fisheries via effort redistribution, tourism assets what will enable Palau to capture the economic value of these benefits.

The collaboration will also be looking into the social and economic effects of fishing in the 20 percent and the export ban as provided by the PNMS law. The policy will cover policies beyond 2020.

Leape said Palau’s implementation of the PNMS by 2020 would showcase Palau’s efforts to conserve the ocean and its resources.

“The world is watching and the world has always watched the example that Palau has set,” Leape stated, adding that this will be demonstrated when the PNMS takes effect.

President Remengesau who graced the signing ceremony said that the PNMS implementation the “most exciting time for Palau and the rest of the world.”

He thanked Stanford University in their assistance to Palau which he stressed is crucial for a small island nation to achieve it’s “lofty goals.”

Remengesau cited that the biggest challenge that the government is facing right now is the ongoing “economic debate” about the PNMS implementation.

There is a move at the Senate to push for passage of the bill delaying the implementation of the marine sanctuary to at least five more years to allow the country to benefit from fishing access revenues amid the tourism downturn.

The bill is set to pass in the Senate despite unlikely support from the president.

However, Remengesau said the very aim of the marine sanctuary is to preserve marine resources for the current and future generations.

“We should take action and not be selfish about our generation and think about the next generation, “ Remengesau said.

“You may know by now that economic debate has begun to take place, those who have their interest on one side will always try to divide and conquer.” (Bernadette H. Carreon)