“PNMS belongs to the Palauan people, ours to benefit from and so if the intent of this bill to open up the marine sanctuary is to aid the economic recovery, we support that but we have to go back to the Palauan people to say, is it really going to benefit us as a people,” said King Sam, Director of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, of the proposed House bill to re-open the PNMS to purse seine and long-line fishing companies.
It took the entire Palau to adopt the PNMS, from community stakeholders, to traditional leaders, to state governments to national government and therefore it belongs to the Palauan people. To change it, said PNMS Director Sam King, the Palauan people should be heard and should have their say about it.
As the pandemic continues to keep potential tourists from traveling and Palau’s economy continue to decline, lawmakers are contemplating ways to raise revenue. A proposal has been introduced in the House of Delegates to lift the ban on purse seine and longline fishing within the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, to again sell fishing licenses to fishing companies to earn additional income for Palau.
Assessing benefits realized through PNMS, King said that the PNMS has only been operational for 18 months. In comparison, Protected Areas Network (PAN) has been around since early 2000 and we are just now realizing the benefits.
Since the enactment of the PNMS Act, commitments and contributions that became available because of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary have amounted to over $111 million. These were made possible through the generous support of our diplomatic and development partners, grants and other investments to carry out efforts to manage the Sanctuary, according Director King.
Some of these benefits include construction of new and remodeled facilities and related infrastructure projects, new patrol boats with 10-years’ operational support for fuel, maintenance and employees’ salaries, grants for management, training, research, education & outreach.
While 80% of Palau’s EEZ is closed to longline and purse seine fishing or any other fishing activity, Palau still receives millions every year from proceeds of the Vessel Days Scheme. In 2020, Palau received around $8 million from Vessel Days Scheme. Prior to implementation of PNMS Act, Palau was receiving around $700k a year for fishing licenses.
PNMS Director also expects further commitments and pledges to be made for PNMS during the upcoming Our Oceans Conference next year.