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Palau National Marine Sanctuary Named a Blue Spark in Growing Network of Outstanding Marine Protected Areas

Today, Marine Conservation Institute and the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), announced that the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) is a Blue Spark marine protected area collaboration. The Blue Spark designation reflects the leadership and commitment of PICRC to effectively implement the PNMS and shows that the protected area is making progress towards earning a prestigious Blue Park Award for conservation excellence.

Referred to in Palauan as Euotelel a Klingil a Debel Belau, the Palau National Marine Sanctuary is one of the world’s largest marine protected areas (MPAs), closing 80% of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ; over 475,000 km2) to all forms of extractive activity. Stretching from 24 nautical miles offshore to the edge of the EEZ, the PNMS protects unique deep-water geological features and a multitude of known species as well as biodiversity that is yet to be discovered. Palau’s waters are also protected as a shark sanctuary which provides additional safeguards to ensure the sustainable use of this space. Some key research activities have been conducted with additional studies needed to inform management efforts given the significant size of the PNMS. Prioritized scientific questions have been laid out through a recently developed PNMS Science & Monitoring Strategy and support from conservation practitioners and other organizations is key to implementing it. This document will guide the pursuit of science at the national level, which is unique in the field of Large-Scale Marine Protected Areas.

“The Palau National Marine Sanctuary is a huge contribution to conservation for Palau and the world,” stated PNMS Program Manager, King Sam. “The core goals of the PNMS have always been the conservation of a beautiful, healthful and resourceful natural environment and the promotion of the national economy. This Blue Sparks designation showcases that we are on track to achieving these goals.”
Enacted in 2015, the Sanctuary came into effect on January 1, 2020, safeguarding Palau’s diversity and representing an important contribution to the culture, economy and sovereignty of the country and its people. The Palauan name for the Sanctuary, Euotelel a klingil a debel Belau, translates to capture both significance of the Sanctuary as a marine refuge for all life and the Palauan people’s historical connection to the ocean and role in creating the Sanctuary.

Dr. Lance Morgan, President of Marine Conservation Institute, said, “We are committed to accelerating the protection of the ocean’s most important places, and Palau has made an exceptional commitment to protecting marine biodiversity. We are excited to partner with the Palau International Coral Reef Center as our newest Blue Spark collaboration to safeguard the Palau National Marine Sanctuary’s exceptional ecosystems and their value to local communities.”

Marine Conservation Institute collaborates with Blue Spark partners to plan and improve their management and implement MPAs, using the Blue Park Award criteria as the blueprint for a better protected ocean. A Blue Park Award indicates that a marine protected area meets the highest science-based standards for marine biodiversity conservation.

“The Palau National Marine Sanctuary has the potential to protect an incredible diversity of marine wildlife,” said Dr. Sarah Hameed, Senior Scientist and Director of the Blue Parks initiative. “Together with the rest of the Blue Parks network, it will help safeguard life on this blue planet.”

Marine Conservation Institute’s announcement of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary as a Blue Spark brings the total number of protected areas in the Blue Parks network to 39 – 27 awarded Blue Parks and 12 Blue Sparks working toward the Blue Park standard. Palau National Marine Sanctuary and the other Blue Sparks represent tomorrow’s Blue Parks. Learn more about Palau National Marine Sanctuary.