Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. has recently been vociferous in calling on the UN to implement a Sustainable Development Goals programme. The proposal has three parts: Healthy oceans, Restoration of fish stocks, Bringing equity to the resources being taken from the oceans.
Mr Remengesau Jr. has put his presidency where his mouth is – In February this year Palau declared its entire 200nm Exclusive Economic Zone would become a marine reserve, and existing fisheries contracts with larger Asian countries would be allowed to lapse.
“We have no choice – the ocean is our way of life,”
“It’s our livelihood, it’s our culture, it’s our economy – I always say the economy is our environment and the environment is our economy.”
“You may ask why, why are you doing this? It makes every sense for our sustainability as a people, as an island nation, and as a community.”
It is unclear how the tiny island nation will be able to effectively police this new marine reserve – but in my view their stand on moving towards sustainable use of the oceans deserves global recognition and support. This may be a huge challenge given reckless fisheries exploitation in the region, driven largely by the voracious appetite for seafood and shark fins from China.