Palau National Marine Sanctuary

Palau’s national goals are ambitious: to protect its entire marine territory. OneReef’s programs are aligned to empower local communities to be part of this exciting national policy.


Palau has demonstrated its international marine leadership through its October 2015 designation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS), the first time a country has designated its entire marine territory as a protected area. A full 80% of Palau’s waters are protected from any fishing, and the remaining 20% will be open for a thriving and regulated domestic fishery. Palau’s significant national decision demonstrates how small nations can make a huge difference in marine conservation.

Our Marine Conservation Agreement

OneReef has committed to helping local Palauan communities enforce the no-fishing bans and regulations as determined by the PNMS. Through capacity-building programs, enforcement trainings for the outerlying islands such as Kayangel and Angaur, and the installation of technologies like radar systems, we are enabling nearshore protection of coral reefs and fish.

The PNMS is still developing its strategy for fully protecting its marine territory by 2021. We are engaging with both top-down and bottom-up strategies, including: a Memorandum of Understanding that aligns our work with Palau’s Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for enforcing any fishing regulations; the PNMS office, which is developing relationships with communities to better understand their marine environments; and local communities that seek resources to implement their marine management and enforcement plans. 

Next Steps

Outlying islands in Palau, including our existing site at Helen Reef, are central to the success of the PNMS. They represent some of the most biodiverse reefs in the country – but due to their distance from the main islands, they are the hardest to protect. We hope to provide enhanced enforcement training and resources, like marine radars and other emerging technologies, that can increase their patrolling efficiency and allow them to catch and prosecute illegal fishing actions.