In their 16 February 2023 letter to President Surangel Whipps Jr., Palau’s Council of Chiefs (COC) made their case on behalf of the people, that the integrity and full-protection of the territorial waters in the Palau National Marine Sanctuary be maintained and sustained.
They noted early studies since the full closure of the PNMS in 2020 that indicate positive “regeneration” and “spillover” of the fish population (both pelagic and migratory) to near shores and surrounding local waters. Small-scale fishermen and fishing tournament organisers have also reported positive benefits from the full closure of the PNMS. A recent study has also come out from the state of Hawaii that indicate local fishermen and fishing companies are seeing better “spillover” effects on the fish population as a result of the establishment of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument as a marine protected area.
In their letter, the COC also indicated their support for the application of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) where appropriate; but along the inner shores and coastal areas alongside the state Protected Area Network of PAN.
The COC wished the president well in the upcoming Panama Ocean Conference and were looking forward to “seeing stronger world efforts to establish bigger and fully protected Marine Protected Areas (MPA). The target of at least 30 percent Protected Ocean by the year 2030 is really just a start.
We need to ensure that our indigenous people, our way of life that rely on the ocean for our food security, economic security and defense of climate change impacts continue; to secure a sustainable future for our children and the next generations.”
The COC also in their letter, congratulated the President and the Micronesian Presidents Summit (MPS) for having Palau host the Pacific Commissioner’s office. “This would be reflective of Palau’s many ocean initiatives and policies established by enacted laws and traditional decrees- to protect and sustain the ocean’s values to life”, stated the letter.
The letter further conveyed the COC’s strong support in line with President Whipps’ declaration of Palau’s position against Deep Sea Mining- and calling on the UN and the world to stop and conduct a scientific analysis of what the possible destruction outcome might be. “The ocean is truly the source of life for the planet and we must ensure its health and sustenance for generations to come”, stated the letter. All fifteen (15) sitting traditional leaders of the Council of Chiefs (COC) signed the letter with Tobi State representation still vacant. The letter comes as the world is seeking a stronger case for indigenous people and traditional and cultural values to be involved with the talks and implementation of a healthy and sustainable ocean for the world to survive.