Palau. When I say the name of this island nation, it is as if I am speaking a sacred word. With only 25,000 people, the country has taken a lead in world politics in regards to protecting marine resources and our Ocean. The President of the Republic of Palau, Johnson Toribiong, discussed with me while diving with Sam’s Tours, the importance of protecting all marine resources, including sharks, while encouraging the children of the world to love our Ocean because we protect what we love.
In 2009, President Toribiong declared in front of the United Nations that Palau was in fact a shark sanctuary and with this declaration he reached directly into the hearts of millions. He has also declared the protection of marine mammals including whales, dolphins and dugongs. When he took office he required the states of Palau to establish marine sanctuaries to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks and marine resources. President Toribiong realizes that if his nation is to survive then the Ocean needs to be healthy and people need to protect the sea for the future generations. The mission and vision of my company aligns so much with Mr. President Toribiong that it was an honor to speak with him and be able to put my images of Palau together with his voice. His words create a strong message of what we need to do and I hope you will share this with all your friends and family.
Since Palau has been declared a shark sanctuary, many other nations have followed his lead. Honduras, Bahamas, Fiji, areas in Indonesia, and a few states in the US with Washington State being the first. But we need everyone to understand the importance of loving and protecting our Ocean and marine resources. We need to write to our legislature, our senators, representatives, and corporate leaders to ensure there are policies in alignment with preservation.
Although Palau and others have created shark sanctuaries and marine preserves, areas are still endangered. Patrol boats and resources are needed to police the areas of protection. There are a variety of organizations working as watchdogs including Shark Savers, WildAid, Palau Shark Sanctuary, Sea Shephard, and PADI Project Aware to name a few along with some amazing companies and individuals. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” She was right as is President Toribiong. In his words, “Everyone, every single child can change the world. It must begin with each of you and with me.” The islanders of Palau are inspirations to the world.
During my visit to Palau I was sponsored by Sam’s Tours and Continental Airlines to film and create a program for children on the incredible life living below the Rock Islands, once an ancient reef and today teeming with sharks, manta rays, coral reefs and healthy fish stocks. During the time I spent with Sam’s Tours, I was fortunate to meet Dermot Keane, Founder of Palau Shark Sanctuary, a man with a mission, to protect Palau’s natural resources. Dermot secured this interview with President Toribiong and together we witnessed conservation in action as he was vetoing a bill that would have opened the Maori Wrasse and Bumphead Parrotfish Fishery, which are endangered species.
In addition, to diving with Sam’s Tours, I joined Kids Sea Camp Palau which was one of the best Kids Sea Camps I have ever attended. Children were learning to scuba dive, snorkel and love the Ocean while learning about the reefs. We were surrounded by parents who share the love of the Ocean with their children and help protect marine life.
The President invites everyone to visit Palau and I would like to encourage you to do the same. The islands of Palau in Micronesia are magnificent. Filled with amazing adventure, out of this world underwater experiences and a nation of people who value the importance of marine conservation and protection of sharks, marine mammals, and marine protected areas. Contact me for more information or if you want to join me for a visit! Keep diving into your imagination and thanks for sharing.
Click here to see Annie's video of sharks in Palau and President Toriobiong's message.
Ocean Annie, aka Annie Crawley, is an avid underwater photographer and videographer. Annie has become one of America’s leading ocean-environmental speakers and educators for the people who will be shaping our future: children. After founding "Dive Into Your Imagination," a full-service media production company, Annie began transporting students on an imaginary dive journey around the world to help them learn about respect and responsibility while engaging their imagination. She was Scuba Diving's June 2011 Sea Hero.