During his keynote address at a UN oceans meeting yesterday, Palau's President Tommy Remengesau declared his intention to ban commercial fishing throughout Palau and to make the entire nation a "100 percent marine sanctuary."
President Remengesau cited eco-tourism as a primary motivation for his decision, and referenced a 2011 study that found that a live shark in Palau is worth $1.9 million in tourism revenue throughout its lifetime, versus just a few hundred dollars when sold to market.
This exciting announcement also highlights one of the most important ways that Oceanic Society travelers are playing a role in marine conservation. By participating in marine eco-tourism programs to places like Palau, Oceanic Society and its travelers are validating and supporting economies that promote healthy oceans.
Not only do our travel programs generate revenue for sustainable, non-consumptive uses of marine resources, they also help to promote these activities to other potential travelers both before and after their trips, which helps to boost demand for this type of travel. Moreover, Oceanic Society always partners with responsible local organizations and travel partners who are active in promoting marine conservation in the places we visit. In this way, we assure that our travel dollars are having the maximum impact.
So, if you have traveled to Palau to enjoy its outstanding marine environment, today you can take pride in the role you have played in assuring its protection. And if you haven't had the opportunity to visit yet, now is an exciting time to join one of our upcoming snorkeling trips to Palau.
Brian Hutchinson is Oceanic Society's director of outreach, co-founder of the State of the World's Sea Turtles Program, and program officer of the IUCN-SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group. Brian holds a B.A. in zoology from Connecticut College, and has been working to advance global marine conservation for more than a decade.