Palau Announces New Marine Mammal Sanctuary at International Biodiversity Meeting in Japan

Oct 22, 2010, 23:00 ET from Government of Palau

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Honorable Harry Fritz, Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism of the Republic of Palau, announced the establishment of a sanctuary for marine mammals in the waters of Palau. The Sanctuary, which covers all of Palau's Exclusive Economic Zone (more than 600,000 square kilometers), was announced today during Ocean's Day, at the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan. The Sanctuary covers all whales, dolphins, and dugongs. The Minister made the following statement:

"Biodiversity has always been integral to the Palauan culture. Our traditional identity, values, legends, and practices are intimately linked to our surroundings and to our relationships with living creatures. Conservation of biodiversity is ingrained in our daily approach to life and inherent in the meaning of our words. From ancient times to today we have conserved our biodiversity through the tools of "bul" or moratoria, and protection of critical areas. Global threats and their influence on our values have made us recognize the importance of partnering and engaging internationally, including with the Convention on Biological Diversity. Today, we continue to use our traditional practices of bul and protected areas, but we enhance those practices with new ideas and information, gleaned through our partnerships with others.

"At the global scale, we have provided a refuge for critical species, becoming one of the first countries in the world to declare and legislate our waters to become a Shark Sanctuary. Palau's dugongs are the most isolated and endangered population in the world. We also have at least 11 species of cetaceans in our waters, including a breeding population of Sperm Whales and possibly as many as 30 other species of whales and dolphins that utilize our EEZ. This sanctuary will promote sustainable whale-watching tourism, already a growing multi-million dollar global industry, as an economic opportunity for the people of Palau.

"The hunting of marine mammals, largely by foreign countries, in the 19th and particularly the 20th centuries has dramatically reduced populations in the Pacific Islands Region. The International Whaling Commission has recognized that there is clear scientific evidence that in the Pacific Islands region many of the great whale species remain severely depleted in numbers, due to the impacts of past whaling. It is a well-established scientific principle that to protect migratory species it is necessary to protect them not only in their feeding areas and migratory routes but also in their breeding grounds.

"Therefore, today, during this tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, I am pleased to announce that President Johnson Toribiong of the Republic of Palau has now declared our country's EEZ a sanctuary for all marine mammals, including dugongs and all whales and dolphins. This will prohibit the deliberate hunting and harassment of any marine mammals. We urge other countries to join our efforts to protect whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals—for the sake of the species, as well as the future economic, social, and spiritual development of coastal peoples."

Note: Palau's declaration coincided with Nagoya Ocean's Day, a day where representatives from all sectors, including governments, international agencies, NGOs, science, and industry gathered to address the problems and contributing factors to ocean and coastal biodiversity loss.

SOURCE Government of Palau