An in­ter­view with Palau Pres­i­dent Tommy Re­menge­sau Jr.

Scuba Diver Australasia - - Wa­ter Planet - By

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

Palau’s wa­ters.

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.

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