The Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act — a global ocean conservation landmark — will go into full effect on Wed, Jan 1, 2020.
This means 80 percent of Palau’s marine exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, will be closed to commercial fishing and all other extractive activities.
Elsei Tellei, Communications and Outreach Officer at the Palau International Coral Reef Center, told PNC that the closure of a huge segment of the EEZ would create one of the largest marine protected areas in the world.
Tellei compares the area to approximately the size of France or the state of Texas. She says the Coral Reef Center is mandated by law to oversee the marine sanctuary.
“Basically the big change that it did is to make the area for fishing of foreign vessels much smaller and also put a lot more regulations and restrictions on that. And the reason for doing that, first of all, is to benefit Palauans. It has the potential of helping Palauans being able to access those larger fish, the pelagic fish that are in that area of the ocean,” Tellei said.
Tellei describes the impact of the closure of the EEZ to Palau in terms of marine conservation.
“The sanctuary would make a really big contribution to protecting global marine biodiversity. The 80 percent that will be completely closed has about 800 recorded animal species. And there is also a lot that we don’t know that is in there,” Tellei said.
A report from the coral reef center and the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions says the sanctuary could help make Palau’s ocean resources more resilient to climate change and also promote food security for the island nation.