09.28.12 Palau Receives Future Policy Award

Story from World Future Council
New York, 26 September 2012.

The Republic of Palau has been announced as the winner of the Future Policy Award 2012. Palau received the Award in recognition of two outstanding marine policies, Palau’s Protected Areas Network Act, initiated in 2003, and its Shark Haven Act from 2009. The two Silver Awards were bestowed on the Philippines and Namibia for the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act (2010) and Namibia’s Marine Resources Act (2000). According to the international jury the three winning policies contribute most effectively to the sustainable management of the world’s oceans and coasts for the benefit of current and future generations. The winners were announced during a press conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 26 September 2012.

Palau’s Protected Areas Network Act, initiated in 2003 Palau’s Protected Areas Network Act establishes the framework for a network of marine and terrestrial protected areas ensuring a long-term sustainable use of natural resources. The Act involves local communities by enabling them to undertake a scientific and social assessment of their local environment and supports traditional systems of natural resource management, which have a long history in Palau. To date, 35 protected areas have been designated, including reefs, lagoons, mangroves and a sardine sanctuary. Some sites permit sustainable harvest of fish and other natural resources, whilst others have been declared no-take zones. Palau seeks to protect 30 per cent of its near-shore marine environment and 20 per cent of its terrestrial environment by 2020.

In 2009, Palau passed its  Shark Haven Act. An estimated 73 million sharks are hunted every year and in addition to the loss of these magnificent creatures, diminishing populations have serious ecological effects. Palau has taken a global lead in shark protection by declaring its entire territorial waters a sanctuary for all shark species. Fishing for sharks has been banned and any sharks caught in the nets of other fisheries have to be released unharmed, and there are substantial fines for violators. Palau has also recognised the economic benefits of protecting sharks rather than hunting them: the shark diving industry contributes US$ 1.2 million in salaries to local communities and generates US$ 1.5 million in taxes for the government annually. Other countries, including Honduras, the Maldives and the Bahamas have followed the example of Palau and banned shark fishing in their national waters.