(Blue Ocean Network.com – April 1, 2014) — The president of the tiny nation of Palau in the Pacific Ocean has declared that the entirety of the exclusive economic zone that surrounds it will become a marine protected area: Tommy Remengesau Jr announced at a UN meeting on Healthy Oceans and Seas that all commercial fishing will be banned in the region to combat overexploitation of the world’s fish populations.
Fish are Overexploited
“Once thought to be limitless, more than 80 percent of global fish stocks are now fully or overexploited,” Remengesau Jr said. “Reckless and destructive fishing practices, overfishing, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing have robbed us of our resources. They must be stopped.”
Setting aside marine protected areas is the course of action recommended by most ocean scientists, who point to evidence showing how effective it can be at protecting multiple species at the same time. In marine reserves, population ecologists see substantial increases in the numbers of large fish and a stabilisation of the populations of smaller fish.
Despite the prevention of fishing in the protected seas, which include the world-famous Jellyfish Lake, Remengesau said he expects this to have a positive effect on his country’s bank balance.
“Palau’s world-renowned waters are among the most diverse in the world,” agreed Seth Horstmeyer, a director for Global Ocean Legacy. “A large marine sanctuary would both protect this incredible marine life and further elevate Palau as a prime ecotourism destination, helping to grow the nation’s economy.”
The island nation of Palau, composed of 250 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, is a nation of unparalleled natural beauty and a country dedicated to the protection of marine species and its people’s livelihoods.
Back in 2009, Palau became the first in the world to establish an ocean shark sanctuary, realizing that sharks are actually far more valuable alive than dead.
Indeed, a study by the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences and the University of Western Australia backed up this idea, revealing that just one reef shark can bring in nearly $2 million U.S. dollars “in its lifetime to the economy of Palau,” as reported by National Geographic.
Now, Palau is taking another big step, this time by banning commercial fishing altogether, establishing, as President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said, “a 100 percent marine sanctuary.”
According to Remengesau the ban will help Palau preserve a pristine environment and promote snorkeling, scuba diving and ecotourism as an alternative way to grow its economy.
The ban will come into full effect after current fishing contracts with Japan, Taiwan, and some private companies expire, allowing only local fishing to continue within a 370 km (229 miles) “exclusive economic zone.”
In addition to fishing activities, Remengesau cites effects of climate change and global warming, such as unpredictable weather patterns and sea level rises, as having an impact on fish populations and marine life.