History buffs will be familiar with Palau, an island country in the Pacific ocean with a population of about 20,000 people spread across 250 islands, because of the battle of Peleliu, one of the major engagements on the Pacific front between the imperial troops of Japan and the U.S. Marines. But that's the past. These days, Palau is making headlines for much more peaceful reasons: President Tommy Remengesau Jr. has declared the Pacific nation will ban commercial fishing. At a UN oceans conference, he declared that Palau's 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone will be a "100 per cent marine sanctuary" (see the map above). This is very impressive and would create a protected zone about the size of France!
Why is he doing this?
"We have no choice - the ocean is our way of life," president Remengesau said. "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. I can tell you that in just my generation I've seen stocks of fish dwindle down, I've seen the sizes of fish taken become more smaller. This is something that is far more than the economical loss of revenues for companies or other countries - you're talking about a livelihood that's really going to be decimated if we don't take the responsible action."
Palau will promote scuba diving, snorkelling and eco-tourism as an alternative income to commercial fishing inside its territorial waters.
Enforcing the ban won't be easy, as the country doesn't have a lot of resources, but it's been looking into the use of unmanned aerial drones to patrol the area.