Palau Celebrates Ranger Graduates of the Protected Areas Network (PAN) Joint Conservation and Police Academy
March 24, 2023; By Carolyn Sotka, Marine Grants Officer
Palau’s coral reefs, part of the Coral Triangle, have been named one of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World. They boast more than 500 species of corals, 1,300 species of reef fish and numerous endangered species such as the dugong, saltwater crocodile, sea turtles, and giant clams, as well as migratory sharks and rays. No other country has the number and diversity of marine habitats or native species per unit area in the world.
Palau’s population of 21,000 people relies almost exclusively on healthy coral reef ecosystems and fish for their diet and economy. Foreign fishing was quickly depleting Palau’s marine life, so in 2015, the country designated 80% of its waters as marine protected areas (MPAs), which are managed by Palau’s Protected Area Network (PAN) Office and Fund.
Since 2014, WildAid Marine has supported partners from the Republic of Palau, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Environment, the Ministry of Justice, TNC, and the PAN Office and Fund to develop comprehensive Marine Protection System (MPS) plans for the Northern Reefs MPAs. In 2018, we expanded our work to strengthen enforcement of all 29 MPAs in the country.
Warm-water coral reefs are the marine ecosystem most threatened by climate-related ocean change and other stressors like disease, pollution, and overexploitation of fisheries. If trends continue, all the reefs in the world could be gone by 2070. Long-term enforcement of Palau’s strict marine regulations is needed to ensure its coral reefs are protected from harmful impacts and marine resources are harvested sustainably.
Through partnership with the Palau Pan and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), WildAid developed a Conservation Academy curriculum and training manual for PAN Rangers. In 2019, the PAN officially adopted the ranger manual and developed a Conservation Academy curriculum for new and existing rangers to provide basic knowledge and skills needed by PAN Rangers in fulfilling enforcement duties.
On March 9th, 2023 Palau celebrated PAN Ranger graduates from a Joint Conservation and Police Academy to officially join Palau’s law enforcement. This new Academy integrated WildAid’s curriculum and training manual as a core competency module for natural resource protection. The Commencement was attended by Palau’s President Whipps, Jr. and Honorable Vice President and Minister of Justice Senior.
WildAid developed comprehensive patrol strategies, conducted annual training, provided uniforms, and acquired monitoring, control and surveillance equipment as part of a 2018 National Assessment of enforcement needs.
Palauan PAN Ranger reviews the Ranger Manuel adopted from WildAid Marine. Photo credit: Palau PAN
The Academy was a special project between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and the Environment (MAFE), the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), PAN Fund Board, and partners. This year was the first time the PAN Ranger Academy curriculum was implemented alongside the Police Academy. This Joint Academy created uniform training for enforcement agency officials in the country and incorporated specific content geared towards PAN site resource management.
Out of the 11 graduating cadets, 7 were PAN Rangers. This joint Academy will enhance and strengthen PAN Enforcement and resource management capacity of the Rangers and their PAN programs. Photo credit: Palau PAN
In May 2023, WildAid Marine will continue their on-the-ground work with our PAN partners through a NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) grant. Our work will continue to build Palauan capacity for ecosystem-based management of coral reefs through 1) a Field Training Program (FTP) to ensure comprehensive ranger training and to create leadership opportunities within the PAN, 2) a Continuous Professional Training (CPT) program that advances ranger knowledge and ensures retention through the years, and 3) establishment of a legal support position/lawyer for the PAN office to better prosecute environmental and fisheries infractions and improve legislative language for rangers’ resource protection authorities.
The Republic of Palau represents one of five Micronesia governments and has committed to the new Micronesia Challenge 2030 goals to effectively manage at least 50% of marine resources by 2030, and to be a voice for sustainability and climate change. Visit the Palau Pan’s website to learn more about their commitment to conservation and diversity of MPAs. WildAid Marine’s 2023 program will continue to build international capacity and provide a replicable and scalable model for critical coral reef ecosystems in the region.
Palau Ngemelis island and Big Drop Off, a World Heritage site. Photo and cover photo credit: iStock.com-Norimoto.