“Allow the Ocean to Sustain Us” was the theme of the Stakeholders’ Dialogue on Oceans hosted by the National Environmental Protection Council (NEPC) this past Thursday, August 29. This theme was chosen because the ocean provides Palauans, and people living in Palau, with vital services such as food, transportation, and attraction for visitors. In order to allow these services to continue, however, we must regulate our own actions to stop the further damage of the ocean and its vital ecosystems.
The goal of the dialogue was to engage the stakeholders and resource-users of Palau, to give updates about past, ongoing, and future work, and to solicit comments, ideas and questions for improvements. This open dialogue highlighted that human well-being should be at the center of all ocean conservation work being done in Palau, while also examining how human interaction is affecting the ocean.
One hundred and sixty-five attendees were recorded at the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center on the day of the Dialogue. The event was also broadcast live on Palau Wave Radio, 89.9, allowing those who could not attend in person to hear the talks on the radio.
Attendees and listeners had the chance to hear panelists from various organizations give talks about different issues relating to the ocean. The Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) panelists discussed fisheries law and regulations, presented research on the tracking of tuna movement in and around Palau, meant to inform PNMS management, and discussed a sustainable financing mechanism for the PNMS.
Panelists from the Protected Areas Network (PAN) talked about the inspiration behind the PAN, realities of working on the ground, and research surveys done to assess community awareness. Other topics such as the Micronesia Challenge, the role that the Palau Conservation Society has within PAN, and financing, were also discussed during this panel.
During the Fisheries panel, the audience explored the science behind fisheries management, fisheries management at a state and community level, and engagement with the community and youth about fisheries. For the Land and Sea Connections panel, panelists spoke about the importance of proper land use planning to augment conservation measures, case studies involving housing plans in Melekeok and land use at Lake Ngardok, as well as ways to envision a future for Palau which integrates sustainable development into watershed protection.
The last panel, Education and Capacity Building, focused on how Palau has done a tremendous amount of work to ensure that future generations are prepared, willing, and capable of dealing with ongoing ocean and ocean-related issues.
President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. opened the Dialogue with a speech where he stressed the need for shared responsibility among, not just those managing our environment, but all of us who use these resources every day. Because of this shared responsibility, and the urgency and scope of the issues which we face and which will arise in the future, the sharing of ideas, criticism, and solutions is vital now more than ever.