Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Palau's Island Voices Representatives Discuss Our Oceans 2015, Pacific Conservation

Joe Rekai, Ashleigh Cirrila, Ann Singeo, and Seth Horstmeyer
During President Tommy Remengesau’s weekly press conference two representatives of the newly formed The Island Voices group discussed participating in the Our Ocean 2015 conference in Chile and collaborating with other Pacific Islanders on regional conservation.

Ann Singeo who serves as director of the Ebiil Society and local fisherman Joe Reklai recently returned from Chile where they joined The Island Voices. As Palau’s representatives on the group they brought the perspective of the bul or traditional conservation measure Palau’s chiefs used to ensure food security.

The Island Voices is a group of island artists, educators, cultural practitioners, women, and artisanal fishermen with a shared concern for the health of our ocean and people.

“Palau is excited to work with other Island Voices members to create youth and fishermen ambassadors across the Pacific in support of ocean conservation,” said Ms. Singeo.

The Our Oceans conference and creation of The Island Voices is timely particularly for Palau as the Olbiil Era Kelulau is considering the Palau National Marine Sanctuary legislation. On October 16, the Palau Senate passed the bill and the House passed a different version one week later on October 22. The two bills will now be worked out in conference.

“We know that all Palauans will benefit from the National Marine Sanctuary,” said Ms. Singeo.

Palau’s fishermen have been vocal supporters of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary proposal both because of the no-take zone encompassing 80% of Palau’s waters, but also because of the Domestic Fishing Zone that will help improve local fisheries.

On October 14 the Olbiil Era Kelulau passed a resolution in support of in-shore fisheries reforms that Palau’s local fishermen developed during a July fishermen’s forum supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts. These reforms will now need to be implemented through legislation and regulations.

Together the Palau National Marine Sanctuary and in-shore fisheries reforms will work together to ensure Palau’s current and future fishermen can sustain their livelihoods and culture.

“As a fisherman it is my responsibility to teach my children about how to live from the ocean and protect it at the same time,” Mr. Reklai.

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