Eighty percent of Palau’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is now fully closed to all forms of extractive activities, including all types of fishing, as Palau National Marine Sanctuary having gone into full effect on Jan. 1.
The closed area measures ~500,000 km2.
Translated into Palauan as "Euotelel a Klingil a Debel Belau," the PNMS is the second largest marine protected area per capita in the world. This newly implemented no-take zone aims to improve Palau’s marine biodiversity, nurture stronger pelagic fisheries for the people of Palau and attract responsible tourism to the country. For instance, in marine conservation, the sanctuary will offer better protection to the nearly 800 different species of animals, nine of which are endangered.
As islanders, the connection to the ocean, both in receiving and in giving, has fostered a reciprocal relationship between Palauans and the ocean. As Palauans benefit from the ocean’s many gifts, such as a source of food and an enabler of transportation, communication and economy, Palauans in return must reciprocate. They have done so through various conservation measures, including species, gear, seasonal and spatial restrictions to help protect the ocean’s health, marine life and ecosystem function.
In this custom of reciprocity, the PNMS Act is just another way for Palauans to ‘return the favor’ to the ocean. According to Dr. Yimnang Golbuu, Chief Executive Officer of the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), which has taken on the role of administrator of the PNMS, “The PNMS is a sanctuary established for the people of Palau, much in the same way our traditional leaders implemented bul when resources were scarce. We could say that the PNMS is a contemporary form of bul that is looking ahead to secure a future for our people.”