An interview with Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr.
After helping to establish the world’s first shark sanctuary in his nation’s waters in 2009, President Tommy Remengesau Jr. of the Republic of Palau signed legislation last year that set aside 80 percent of his small west
Pacific island nation’s ocean as a fully protected marine sanctuary. The world’s sixth-largest reserve, the Palau sanctuary covers an area larger than California and has the greatest percentage of any nation’s waters off limits to fishing.
“Creating this sanctuary is a bold move that the people of Palau recognise as essential to our survival,” Remengesau explained. To protect this vast tract, he also signed an international treaty targeting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. “Palau will not tolerate poachers in our ocean,” he warned. His administration followed up on that warning by confiscating and burning vessels from Vietnam and the Philippines caught illegally fishing in
In May 2016 Remengesau was awarded the Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Excellence in National Stewardship. In June, David Helvarg visited Palau and interviewed Remengesau for Alert Diver.
Alert Diver: What led Palau to become a world leader in ocean conservation?
Tommy Remengesau Jr.: Ocean conservation is very much a part of our tradition and livelihood, and we know to sustain our future existence as island people we must balance Nature and development.
AD: What in your own life brought you to the idea of ocean stewardship?
TR: As a young Palauan you’re taught from early on not to take more than you need for today, to think about your children and their children and to live in harmony with Nature. This is an integral part of growing up in Palau, so it’s natural for me to lead by rallying the people to do what we’ve been taught from a young age.