This Tiny Nation Could Be A ‘Tipping Point’ For Saving The Oceans

ImageContent(562a6d16e4b0443bb563d9d6,562a6a53140000e800c7ab53,Image,HectorAssetUrl(562a6a53140000e800c7ab53.jpeg,Some(),Some(jpeg)),JTB Photo/UIG via Getty Images,The island nation’s president has asked, “How much will Palau’s efforts matter if the world is not on the same page?”)

The tiny nation of Palau, an archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean, has long been a international leader in ocean conservation. Over the past decade or so, it established the world’s first shark sanctuary, passed some of the most stringent laws banning bottom trawling, and developed a framework for community-based conservation by training local fishermen to collect data on their catch. This week, Palau has conservationists cheering again.

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said Thursday that he’d sign newly passed legislation protecting 80 percent of the nation’s territorial waters — about 193,000 square miles — from all fishing activities.

This reserve will be one of the five largest fully protected marine areas in the world.

All told, a record 1 million square miles of ocean have been granted strong protections this year, The Washington Post reported. Among other nations, Britain reserved 333,000 square miles, New Zealand dedicated 230,000, and Chile protected 115,000.

Yet, even with these new dedications, only 1.9 percent of ocean waters are being strictly protected — in other words, you can’t fish, you can’t extract minerals and you can’t dump trash there. Ocean conservationists would like to see that figure closer to 30 percent.

Elliott Norse, chief scientist for the Marine Conservation Institute, who has been working on these issues since 1978, said he would settle for 20 percent. Actually, he said he’d “give his life” for it.

“I would give my life gladly to see us reach the modest goal of 20 percent by 2030,” Norse said. “If we really did it effectively, not just in name but do it in fact, we would be able to save virtually all —> Read More