An Island the Size of NYC is Protecting 193,000 Square Miles of Ocean

The island of Palau, which is as small as New York City, gave the world some BIG news last week: they will create a marine reserve larger than California. In one of the largest reserve projects ever announced, Palau is committed to protecting a jaw-dropping 80 percent of its territorial waters.

Palau “Will Not Tolerate Any More Unsustainable Acts”

The island’s reserve will protect 193,000 square miles and be off limits to “extractive activities” (e.g. fishing and mining), as reported in National Geographic. The other 20 percent will be for local fishing and small-scaled commercial activities.

The small island in the Pacific Ocean has a lot to lose if it doesn’t protect its ocean. Palau is home to 1,300 fish species and 700 coral species. For thousands of years, Palauans have worked with — not against — their rich marine biodiversity, and the ocean reserve is a reflection of that. Unlike most of the modern world that’s depleting our oceans without thinking of the consequences, Palauans have the longstanding tradition of bul where they designate areas for the fish’s populations to recuperate from extractive fishing practices.

Despite having no military and only one law enforcement ship, Palau is committed to protecting its ocean. When Vietnamese ships were caught illegally fishing in Palau’s territory, the ships were immediately burned. Spoken like a true leader, Palau’s President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said: “We will not tolerate any more unsustainable acts…Palau guarantees, [poachers] will return with nothing.” As one study from earlier this year put it: “Whatever we decide to do in the next 10 to 15 years will decide the future of biodiversity on Earth.” Needless to say, Palau’s on the right track.

3 Species That Will Benefit From the Ocean Reserve

Here are three species that will benefit from the ocean reserve:

Prickly Shark

The near threatened prickly shark is going to catch a break in Palau’s waters. While the shark is native to Australia, New Zealand, Palau, Peru, Taiwan, Province of China and the United States, the shark won’t have to worry about its biggest threat — being “bycatch in some deepwater line and trawl fisheries” — as much in Palau.

Coral Trout

The vulnerable coral trout is heavily fished for the live reef trade and dead fish trade. It’s overfished so much that the species has declined at least 30 percent over 20-30 years. In Palau, “at least four spawning aggregations have disappeared,” since the 1970s. Fortunately, local fishing will only be allowed 20 percent of the time in Palau now.

Palauastrea ramosa

While this near threatened coral reef is widespread, there is evidence that it has declined. Climate change and coral disease are two of its biggest threats. Other threats like fisheries, human development, dynamite fishing, chemical fishing and pollution from agriculture and industry only exacerbate its decline.

If these species are going to make it, Palau seems like their best bet.

What do think of Palau’s planned marine reserve? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: LuxTonnerre

131 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago

way to go.

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Ake Lindberg
Ake L2 years ago

Hurray Palau, you show how to take care of the ocean!

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Patricia Guilhem
Patricia G2 years ago

Une bonne nouvelle !!! N' oubliez pas chers amis, la marche mondiale pour le climat, le 29 novembre. Pour savoir la ville la plus proche de chez vous, contactez avaaz.fr. C' est vraiment très important !!!!! Le monde entier doit sortir ce jour là. Partout dans le monde, nous marcherons pour l' avenir de la Terre.

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Denise L.
Denise L.2 years ago

Excellent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

Well done to Palau. Now the bigger countries need to come online and follow this example.

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Andrea Kenyon
Andrea Kenyon2 years ago

Seems that there's more intelligence on that one tiny island than in all of North America.

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Lise van den Broek

Wonderful news. a big hurrah for the Palauans, I hope they will be an example for other countries.

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Marilyn Rocker
Marilyn Rocker2 years ago

More often than not, It takes the small guy to set the standard for the rest of the people---given every chance we have----support countries to be the icon leaders!!!

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Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer2 years ago

The country announced in 2009 it was creating the world's first shark sanctuary by banning all commercial shark fishing in its territorial waters. Google for more info on how it is progressingl

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