In one of his final addresses as President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau spoke in a video released by the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) yesterday to celebrate its 20th Anniversary, praising the center for its research to benefit “climate resilience, fish-stock protection, and reef health management”.
In his video address, Remengesau states that PICRC’s work has “contributed to state policies, our national protected areas network, our regional Micronesia challenge, and the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS)”.
In celebration of its anniversary, the research center is releasing video content every day this week, in order to celebrate a “virtual anniversary” for international stakeholders. Last night, a dinner was hosted at the center for PICRC’s current employees, its former employees, and its donors on island. Special recognition was given to outgoing PICRC Board Members Elbuchel Sadang, the Minister of Finance, and Umiich Sengebau, Minister of Natural Resources, Environment & Tourism, as well as a list of donors who contributed a total of over $23 thousand to the center this year.
Remengesau’s address, which aired during the event, stressed the importance of PICRC’s research especially during the COVID pandemic, which has delivered a massive blow to Palau’s tourism-reliant economy.
“Science has proven to be the greatest asset that will get us out of this pandemic,” said Remengesau, adding that, “ocean and environmental protection initiatives can drive economic recovery.”
Remengesau has previously emphasized that protecting fish stocks and exporting fish can be a driver for the economy. “It’s all about being the resource owners,” Remengesau has said.
Recent studies spearheaded by PICRC include an ongoing monitoring project to determine the extent of coral bleaching in Palau, surveys of households to gauge community perspectives on both the PNMS and the Protected Areas Network (PAN), and studies seeking to determine what factors make protected areas more or less effective.
The PNMS, set to be one of Remengesau’s most distinctive legacies, has gained international recognition within the past year, even being featured on world-renowned natural historian David Attenborough’s Netflix documentary “A Life on Our Planet” as one of the great environmental initiatives of today’s world. However, within the past year it has also garnered criticism at home for its initial failure to provide a sustainable pelagic fish source to the community, which has in turn put more pressure on reef fish as an alternative source of food.
As the current administrator of the vast conservation area, much of PICRC’s research in the past year has been focused towards how to improve the effectiveness of the PNMS, which is also supported by President-elect Surangel Whipps Jr., in providing this pelagic food source. Research initiatives include determining how to improve effectiveness of Palau’s FAD system in catching juvenile yellowfins, as well as studying fish muscle to better understand the movement of fish between the PNMS and shallower near-shore waters.
President Remengesau, whose 16 years as President will end this Thursday with the inauguration of Mr. Whipps, has had a presidency defined by environmental protection.

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