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New opportunities and partnerships to strengthen management of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary

In June of 2019, Palau passed a law mandating the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) to administer the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) by coordinating research, education and outreach activities relating to the Sanctuary and Domestic Fishing Zone and to develop and recommend to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment & Tourism (MNRET), appropriate conservation measures for the Domestic Fishing Zone. Since then, PICRC has worked on building its institutional capacity to fulfill this directive. PICRC has also been working closely with MNRET and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to discuss strengthening of coordination and collaboration among the three entities mandated by law to manage the PNMS. 

Recently, the PNMS Department was established at PICRC to allow it to better meet its PNMS mandate. With the recent hiring of the PNMS Director King Sam, the PNMS team now includes a PNMS Science Officer/Researcher and PNMS Surveillance & Enforcement Officer based at Marine Operations Center at the Ministry of Justice. PICRC is now developing a science and monitoring program to better understand the diversity of life in the PNMS and how it is changing over time. The goal is to track changes in the PNMS as we continue with its implementation. 

Since June 2019, new opportunities and partnerships have developed that allow PICRC, MOJ and MNRET to strengthen their capacity and their management of the PNMS. The development of a PNMS communications strategy is nearing completion – a product of the Palau Conservation Society (PCS) and a working group of partners across different agencies and organizations. 

Rollout of the communications strategy is expected in the coming months. A Global Environment Facility (GEF) – funded project with the United Nations Development Programme has recently been approved and is expected to kickoff this summer. The project will be implemented in collaboration with MNRET and MOJ. The 3-year project is designed to provide institutional strengthening for the management of the PNMS and to establish formal collaboration and integration of work across PICRC, MNRET and MOJ. PICRC has also partnered with the Blue Nature Alliance to help strengthen its capabilities to effectively manage the PNMS as well as work with MNRET to help with the development of the domestic fishery to bring more benefits to our local communities. The Blue Nature Alliance is a global partnership founded and led by Conservation International, The Pew Charitable Trusts, GEF, Minderoo Foundation and the Rob & Melani Walton Foundation. 

The management of the Sanctuary is a multi-faceted effort that requires the active involvement of many stakeholders. To ensure this level of engagement, PICRC is working to establish an advisory group with members that are key to informing decision-making and include members from government, non-governmental organizations, civil society and others in the private sector. 

“While we continue to work toward successful implementation of the PNMS, we are meeting with the different stakeholders to gather feedback and seek collaborative arrangements so we could be more responsive to any issues that may come up. PNMS is for all of us and it belongs to the people of Palau. In moving forward with implementation, we want to ensure that we seek participation and input from the different stakeholders,” stated King Sam, the new PNMS Director at PICRC.