Palau Spearheads Global Conservation

Thanks to a marine ecosystem hailed as one of “The Seven Underwater Wonders of the World,” the Republic of Palau was chosen to play a starring role in the new 3D IMAX film “The Last Reef: Cities Beneath the Sea.” The movie premiered at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in March 2012 and will be shown at museums and IMAX theaters around the world.

Much of “The Last Reef,” which explores the underwater worlds of the earth’s coral reef systems and the challenges they face, was shot in Palau. The waters surrounding Palau, a tiny nation with only 20,000 people and eight major and 250 smaller islands, are home to 1,300 species of fish and 483 species of corals.

Although a mere speck in the Pacific Ocean about 500 miles east of the Philippines, Palau has become a world leader in marine conservation. Its leaders realized years ago that concerted action must be taken to protect the seas of a nation whose economy relies on healthy fisheries and a burgeoning dive tourism industry attracted by its exquisite coral reefs.

“For small island developing countries like Palau, the reef is the essence of our survival. It is our culture, our way of life,” said Tommy Remengesau, Jr., president of Palau from 2001 to 2009 and current member of the Senate of Palau, at the film’s premier. “Our traditions and our lifestyle are all sustained by what the oceans and the reefs provide.”

Remengesau is no conservation newcomer. In fact, he has been a regional and international environmental leader for many years. It was during his presidency in 2005 that he spearheaded the Micronesia Challenge, a regional initiative in which several Pacific nations – the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands – joined Palau in pledging to conserve 30% of their coastal waters and 20% of their forests by 2020.

In 2003, Remengesau signed into law the Palau Protected Area Network, which set up the structure for a system of established private, state and local conservation sites. The protectors of these sites can apply for funding, which now comes from a $15 Green Fee paid by visitors to Palau. The work of PAN continues thanks to the more than $2 million that has been raised so far, and new sites are being added every year.

Through further legal action on another front, Remengesau sought to protect sharks, whose ranks were being decimated by foreign fishing fleets licensed to fish in Palauan waters. The fisherman were catching the sharks, cutting off their fins – later to be made into shark-fin soup and medicines – and throwing the finless sharks back into the water to die. He signed a law banning the practice in 2003.

Six years later, the nation’s current president, Johson Toribiong, declared Palau’s exclusive economic zone waters as the world’s first shark sanctuary at a meeting of the United Nations. In 2010, the government expanded the sanctuary’s scope to include whales, dolphins and dugongs, Palau’s most endangered animal.

Although Remengesau’s and Toribiong’s efforts have been instrumental in shaping the region’s environmental policies, there have been other major Palauan players as well. These include Noah Idechong, who has served as chief of Palau’s Division of Marine Resources and director of the Palau Conservation Society and is now the speaker of the 16-member House of Delegates of Palau. Idechong won the Goldman Environmental Prize, which honors grassroots environmental “heroes,” in 1995, partly for his efforts to encourage local Palauan chiefs to revive the ancient practice of using a “bul,” or moratorium, to restrict fishing when stocks are low or endangered. This bul system is one of the principles that the local leaders and scientists look to in the actions they take as part of the Protected Area Network and has been an inspiration to other leaders throughout the Pacific region.

As former Palau President and current Senator Remengesau said in his remarks at the Smithsonian, “Out of fear of total extinction of our reefs and terrestrial resources resulting from carbon dioxide greenhouse effect, climate change, global warming, sea level rise, and increase in water temperature, we initiated the Micronesia Challenge. There is a need for mankind to find solutions to this destructive problem. Everyone and every region must do their part.”

And few countries are doing their part better than Palau. Visit the Palau Visitors Authority for more information!


Dive Into The Blue Corner

Check out this gorgeous underwater video of The Blue Corner: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiCXpaZEdHY

Palau Aggressor, 2012

This is a video of our dive vacation aboard the Palau Aggressor II during February 5-11, 2012. This video was shot by crew member Nadia Westby, and uploaded with her permission. Many thanks to her and the crew of the Aggressor for a memorable dive experience. Watch video....


Time Magazine Honors Palau President Tommy Remengesau

Palau president Tommy Remengesau Jr. is part of a change that the world needs to see. His nation might consist of a mere 20,000 citizens, but his message is directed at the entire globe. Remengesau says that climate change is like a dark cloud over his people. "It's a real threat," says the calm, soft-voiced leader. "We are not visualizing it — we are experiencing it."

Low-lying archipelagoes like Palau are among the ecosystems in which the climate change destined to hit other nations tomorrow is a reality today. Coral bleaching, rising sea levels and drought all now threaten Palau. Remengesau warns that his country's plight is just the first installment of what the rest of the world might expect if current trends continue.

One of eight children, Remengesau grew up in a family in which waste was discouraged, and his father, the country's fourth President, set an example of community leadership. Now 51, Remengesau entered politics in 1984 as Palau's youngest Senator. In 1992, he became Vice President and in 2000 was elected President.

Conservation is no marginal portfolio in Palauan politics. Some 100,000 tourists visit each year, and it is for the diving, sport fishing and ecotourism that they are prepared to travel to a tiny speck some 500 miles (800 km) southeast of the Philippines. "The environment is our economy," say Remengesau. "The economy is our environment."

Now he has challenged his neighbors to join the fight. Speaking to 20 island leaders at the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders in May, Remengesau described the way in which Palau has set aside for conservation 20% of its land area and 30% of the ocean close to its shore. A number of Palau's neighbors, including the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, have also adopted the program. "It is simply time. Time for each Pacific leader to make conservation a priority," Remengesau told delegates. Part of a change that the world needs to see.

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3D Film Premiere Brings Coral Reef Conservation Leaders to DC

Academy-Award Nominated Directors, Renowned Conservation Scientists, and Environmental Leaders Discuss Efforts to Preserve Threatened Ocean Communities

Two special screenings of The Last Reef, a new documentary featuring unprecedented 3D footage of life in our ocean’s coral worlds, will bring together leading scientists and conservationists to discuss the threats—and the hope that remains—for coral reefs. While new research suggests that the ocean is acidifying at a significantly faster rate than at any time in the Earth’s history, these events will highlight the efforts of environmental leaders working to change the public’s understanding of the threats that face our oceans and protect their ancient and fragile coral havens.

A special preview will be hosted by The American Association for the Advancement of Science, (publisher of Science magazine), on Tuesday, 13 March at 6:30 p.m.,; The Last Reef premieres at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History as part of the DC Environmental Film Festival on Wednesday, 14 March at 7:00 p.m. Both events will include panel discussions featuring the film’s directors, the former president of Palau, (an island nation leading the world in coral reef conservation), coral reef conservation experts from NOAA, and other leading scientists.

Shot on location in Palau, The Bahamas, Australia, Cancun and Vancouver Island, The Last Reef reveals what’s at stake by exploring our connection with ocean’s complex, parallel worlds, visiting a habitat more diverse and more colorful than ever imagined. The film’s stunning 3D imagery was captured using the world’s first underwater 4K macrophotography rig, created specifically for this shoot. Learn more....

The Path to Palau

For those who happen to be Survivor fans, there is no need to introduce the incredible destination of Palau. Consistently ranked as one of the world's best dive destinations, Palau is the ultimate paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurous travelers.