Palau leads in ocean conservation

By: Samisoni Pareti in New York

With the world racing to meet the 17 sustainable development goals (SDG) of the United Nations by 2030, Palau has told the UN membership it has achieved seven development goals so far.

Reporting on the progress of its pursuit of the SDGs at this week’s High Level Reporting Forum at the UN Headquarters in New York, Palau’s minister of education Sinton Soalablai said the island nation has made great gains in the SDGs of environment protection, poverty reduction, and universal access to good education, health care and clean water.

“For achieving 2030 goals and targets, Palau has identified challenges in closing gaps, improving quality, and enhancing resilience – especially climate resilience,” Minister Soalablai told the UN Forum.

“There are many SDG targets that Palau is on track to realise but for which additional effort is needed to maintain good progress.

“Having achieved universal education, more is needed to ensure quality education for a globalised future (Target 4.1). Having achieved universal access to water, more is needed to ensure safety and drought resilience (Target 6.1).

“Having created a national network of marine protected areas, more is needed to protect especially sensitive ecosystems still underrepresented in the network such as mangroves (Target 14.5), to conserve near-shore fish stocks (SDG 14.4), and to sustainably manage terrestrial ecosystems while achieving food security (Targets 2.3 and 2.4) and inclusive economic growth (Target 8.5) in harmony with nature.”

More ocean conservation measures of the Palau Government were outlined in the comprehensive report it submitted to the UN this week. On page 47 of the document, the northwestern Pacific nation outlines the impact of its conservation initiatives on the commercial fishing of its tuna fishery under its membership of the Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA).

“Currently fishing in Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is permitted through a Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) pursuant to the Parties to the Nauru Agreement. Commercial fishing activities in the EEZ will cease in January 2020 when a National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) becomes effective.

“Under the PNMS, 80 per cent of the EEZ (500,000 square miles) will become a marine sanctuary. The remaining 20 per cent will be reserved for traditional fishing and newly established domestic fishing fleets serving Palau’s domestic and tourist food fish markets (see also SDG 8).

The Palau report also highlighted the shortage of reef fish for the domestic market. With the high number of reef fish exports and fish consumption by tourists in Palau, the report said more work needed to be done about the local fish market.

“A challenge is to identify, and address gaps in knowledge about reef fish consumption. While it is known that substantial quantities (>90 tons per year) of reef food species are exported in the personal cooler trade each year (mostly to Palauans resident in Guam and Hawaii), there are currently no data systematically collected on restaurant and hotel sales of fish.

“Since tourist numbers are 6 to 9 times that of residents, this is a critical information gap that needs to be addressed, beginning with the development of data collection protocols and dedicated resources.”

As was true with the other UN-member states that volunteered this week to submit their progress report on the work towards achieving the 19 SDGs under the UN’s 2030 Agenda, the time for Palau Minister Soalablai to take questions from delegates was limited.

The minister took questions from six member countries that included Tuvalu and Fiji, as well as a delegate from non government organisations, who are also accredited participants of the UN High Level Reporting Forum this week in New York.

Palau was one of six countries that are members of the Pacific Islands Forum that offered to submit its voluntary national report. The others are Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Vanuatu and Nauru.

  • Pareti’s coverage of the UN’s High Level Reporting Forum at the United Nations in New York is made possible with support from the UNDP Pacific office and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.