Pacific Island Nation Of Palau Creates Marine Sanctuary, One Of Largest In The World
The small island nation of Palau has created a marine sanctuary in its waters with 193,000 square miles of the most extensive reserves in the world.
It has banned fishing in a sanctuary the size of Spain to protect the estimated 1,300 species of fish and 700 types of coral that live there.
The marine reserve, covering 80 percent of Palau's maritime territory, will allow the ocean waters to recover and heal from decades of industrial-scale fishing operations that have driven many species to the edge of extinction, Palau President Tommy Remengesau said in an announcement ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 28
"Island communities have been among the hardest hit by the threats facing the ocean. Creating this sanctuary is a bold move that the people of Palau recognize as essential to our survival," said Remengesau.
"A small island nation can have a big impact on the ocean."
Only around 18,000 people live across the 250 islands that make up the Republic of Palau, part of the larger Micronesia island group in the western Pacific.
After the full sanctuary is phased in the next five years, the remaining 20 percent of the country's waters will be reserved for fishing by local individual and small-scale commercial fisheries.
The large fleets of foreign trawlers that dominate fishing throughout most of the Pacific will be banned.
The move follows a similar action in 2009 when Palau created the world's first sanctuary, a move that has seen many countries follow suit.
Creating marine sanctuaries is a growing trend among Pacific island countries; in 2012 the Cook Islands instituted a 411 million-square-mile marine park, while Tokelau and Kiribati have also set up large protected zones.
Palau's maritime territorial waters share boundaries with the Philippines, Indonesia and the Federated States of Micronesia.
With a ban on most commercial fishing, Palau will depend on tourism for generating most of its annual gross domestic product.
Tourism brings in an estimated $160 million annually (the country uses the U.S. dollar as its currency), almost half the country's GDP, while commercial fishing - mostly for tuna - has brought in about $5.5 million each year.