The tiny pacific archipelago of Palau has welcomed the offer of a new 40 metre patrol boat to help control illegal fishing in its California-sized marine reserve.
Commercial fishing and oil drilling, which are considered to be two of the biggest threats to the world’s oceans, are banned in 500,000-square kilometre area but the nation only has one long range patrol vessel to help support its work.
President Tommy Remengesau has now announced that two Japanese non-government organisations — Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation — have agreed to step in.
In a project, which is expected to cost more than $30 million, the two charities will supply a 40 metre patrol boat as well as covering fuel and maintenance costs. The boat is not expected to be handed over until late 2017.
Speaking after the reserve had been approved by congress last year President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr said that the movement proved that a “small island nation can have a big impact on the ocean”.
“Creating this sanctuary is a bold move that the people of Palau recognise as essential to our survival. We want to lead the way in restoring the health of the ocean for future generations,” he added.
Palau has a strong history of marine conservation having created the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009. Often cited as one of the “underwater wonders or the world” it is hoped that Palau can continue to develop as an eco-tourism destination.
"We're not just closing our waters and throwing away the key," President Remengesau explained at a United Nations oceans conference last year. "We're closing our waters because we will do our part in making sure that there's healthy stocks of fish in Palau that can migrate to other places, and that there are other options to grow the economy.
"These are important ways to make a living and at the same time preserve the pristine environment that we have been blessed with in Palau."
The new marine reserve came just weeks after New Zealand announced plans to create a marine reserve the size of France in the Kermadec region.