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.
Protecting Palau’s Coral Reefs, One of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World
Palau’s population of 21,000 people relies almost exclusively on 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 protected areas.
Since 2014, WildAid Marine has worked in Palau to design a practical and feasible enforcement system for the two Northern Reefs MPAs. In 2018, we expanded our work to strengthen the national office of the Protected Areas Network (PAN), which is responsible for all 29 MPAs in the country. Enforcement of Palau’s strict marine regulations is needed to ensure its coral reefs are protected from harmful stressors and marine resources are harvested sustainably.
Palau: The Challenge
When we began our work in Palau’s Northern Reefs, rangers lacked the training and equipment necessary to patrol their waters. Patrols were sporadic or nonexistent, and ranger retention rates were very low. In 2018, we worked with the Palau PAN to address network wide issues that would help strengthen enforcement across the country. Some of the limitations encountered included: inconsistent application of the law, limited knowledge of best practices in compliance, lack of performance indicator monitoring, among other issues.
Putting Our Model Into Action
We helped our partners reach the Implementation stage and develop comprehensive Marine Protection System plans for two Northern Reefs MPAs. We also carried out a network wide needs assessment for PAN and provided a blueprint for institutional strengthening.
We developed comprehensive patrol strategies and acquired patrol equipment and uniforms for the States of Ngarchelong and Kayangel and also procured and installed a long-range camera in Koror to monitor port traffic.
In 2019, the PAN officially adopted our PAN-wide ranger manual and in 2022, we helped set up a ranger academy for new and current Palau PAN rangers including plans for continuous learning, and an apprenticeship program for new rangers, which will be implemented in 2023.
As the PAN Fund provides basic funding for the staffing and operations of State enforcement units, WildAid will continue to support individual States on a site-by-site basis in order to address specific equipment needs.
In cooperation with PAN, we aim to identify key awareness initiatives that will foster support for marine conservation and fisheries compliance.
We continue to collaborate with Palauan lawyers to ensure that State Rangers are properly trained on filling out citation formats and coordinating with the PAN and Ministry of Justice officers to help increase prosecution rates.
Palauan MPAs have access to the ranger academy for new rangers to effectively protect their marine ecosystems.
rangers in the Northern Reefs are fully equipped with surveillance and enforcement equipment, allowing them to better stop illegal fishing activity.
MPS plans developed for Palau’s marine environment.