Minister Steven Victor, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment (MAFE)

“I think the 100% Ocean management is the critical agenda that needs to be pushed forward.  When you say 100% management, it could mean a lot of things but it should be tied to the issues each of the nations are facing,” stated Minister Steven Victor of the issues that Palau would bring to the UN Our Oceans Conference this year in Lisbon, Portugal.

“We cannot overprotect because the socioeconomic well-being of the people who depend on their resources will be impacted and therefore, sustainability of protection can be put at risk. And if you produce too much, you’re depleting the very resource that sustains you, so really, finding the balance between production and protection that provides and conserves is critical to this Ocean-Climate Nexus,” added Minister Victor on the solution Palau plans to showcase to other nations at the UN Ocean Conference.

Minister Victor of Palau’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment (MAFE), acknowledged that Palau has been managing close to 100% of its ocean already.  It has banned bottom trawlers, banned under sea mining, established a large shark sanctuary and closed off 80% of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary to fishing but he said that “the key to get to the Ocean-Climate nexus (addressing impacts of climate change and improvement of ocean health), is to show the balance between protection and production.”

To other Pacific nations looking to this model of mixed use for their marine parks such as Niue, Cooks Islands, Kiribati and Fiji, Minister Victor said this is a national policy to be decided by the country but it must be based on science and stakeholder engagement.

Meanwhile in Palau, local opposition organized by members of civil societies, traditional chiefs, fishermen and youth opposing Palau government’s Blue Economy Plan says that Palau’s EEZ is already 100% managed and that the current PNMS law fulfills the purpose of BUL, PNA and eco-tourism benefits including Palau’s scientific climate change contributions to needed MPA solutions.

Furthermore, they deny the government’s claims that the closure of 80% of Palau’s EEZ under the PNMS created revenue loss to Palau and cited government financial reports that show fishing revenues for Palau from 2011 to 2014 and 2016 to 2019.

Government report shows that before the PNMS, Palau earned 16.5 million (2011-2014) from tuna. After PNMS was enacted (2016 to 2019), Palau earned 37.9 million from tuna revenue, a 230% increase after the PNMS became law.  Most of this revenue comes from the selling fishing days under the Vessel Days Scheme where fishing companies buy fishing days in Palau but does not fish in Palau but in member country’s waters.

The movement under hashtag #savemysanctuary and through petitions is building up to counter the government’s 100% management concept encapsulated in the President Whipps’s Blue Economy Plan. (L.N. Reklai)

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