Palau approves huge marine sanctuary

Palau approves huge marine sanctuary

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New 500,000 sq. km reserve would be world’s sixth-largest.

The new sanctuary would be the world’s sixth-largest fully protected area

The tiny Pacific nation of Palau has approved the establishment of a marine sanctuary twice the size of Mexico. Conservationists said the 500,000 sq. km sanctuary would be the world’s sixth-largest fully protected area. The move follows a series of announcements on new marine parks, by Chile, New Zealand and the UK, to protect vast swaths of oceans from overfishing.

“Today is a historic day for Palau, proving that a small island nation can have a big impact on the ocean,” said Palau president, Tommy E Remengesau Jr. “Creating this sanctuary is a bold move that the people of Palau recognize as essential to our survival."

Unanimously passed

The country’s national congress approved the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act, which will see 80% of the nation’s maritime territory designated a reserve. The bill was unanimously passed 16-0 in the House of Delegates and the senate voted to adopt it.

Details are still being worked out with regards to enforcing the new reserve, as the country has no military and only one law enforcement ship. Around 20% of the sanctuary will still be accessible to local fishermen.

Palauans have a long history of bul, the practice of setting aside smaller reef areas during fish spawning and feeding periods to allow populations time to recover from fishing. The federal government has now effectively extended this practice to encompass the majority of the country's ocean.

Palau’s waters are home to over 1,300 species of fish, 700 species of hard and soft corals and marine lakes with non-stinging jellyfish.