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Palau National Marine Sanctuary Named a Blue Spark in Growing Network of Outstanding Marine Protected Areas

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[Palau, 28 October 2023] – Today, Marine Conservation Institute and the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) announced that the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) is a Blue Spark marine protected area collaboration. The Blue Spark designation reflects the leadership and commitment of PICRC to effectively implement the PNMS and reflects the progress this protected area is making towards earning a prestigious Blue Park Award for conservation excellence.

Map of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, courtesy of PICRC

Referred to in Palauan as Euotelel a klingil a debel Belau, the Palau National Marine Sanctuary is one of the world’s largest marine protected areas (MPAs), closing 80% of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ; over 475,000 km2) to all forms of extractive activity. Stretching from 24 nautical miles offshore to the edge of the EEZ, the PNMS protects unique deep-water geological features and a multitude of known species as well as biodiversity that is yet to be discovered. Palau’s waters are also protected as a shark sanctuary which provides additional safeguards to ensure the sustainable use of the area.

“The Palau National Marine Sanctuary is a huge contribution to conservation for Palau and the world,” stated PNMS Program Manager, King Sam. “The core goals of the PNMS have always been the conservation of a beautiful, healthful and resourceful natural environment and the promotion of the national economy. This Blue Sparks designation showcases that we are on track to achieving these goals."

PICRC researchers sample plankton in the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, Photo: PICRC
PICRC researchers sample plankton in the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, Photo: PICRC

Key research activities are still needed to inform management of this large scale marine protected area. The recently developed PNMS Science & Monitoring Strategy prioritizes research questions that are relevant to the Sanctuary’s management. This strategy, which relies on collaboration between the government, conservation practitioners, and partner organizations, will guide the science for the PNMS at the national level, which is unique in the field of large-scale marine protected areas.

Dr. Lance Morgan, President of Marine Conservation Institute, said, “We are committed to accelerating the protection of the ocean’s most important places, and Palau has made an exceptional commitment to protecting marine biodiversity. We are excited to partner with the Palau International Coral Reef Center as our newest Blue Spark collaboration to safeguard the Palau National Marine Sanctuary’s exceptional ecosystems and their value to local communities.”

Enacted in 2015, the Sanctuary became active on January 1, 2020, safeguarding Palau’s diversity and representing an important contribution to the culture, economy and sovereignty of the country and its people. The Sanctuary’s Palauan name, Euotelel a klingil a debel Belau, has a significant meaning related to Palauans’ historical connection to the ocean and stewardship of the ocean wildlife. “Euotelel” means refuge or sanctuary, “klingil” refers to all life, and “debel Belau” signifies Palauan’s relationship to the ocean.

Sunrise over Palau National Marine Sanctuary, Photo: PICRC
Sunrise over Palau National Marine Sanctuary, Photo: PICRC

Marine Conservation Institute collaborates with Blue Spark partners to plan and improve their management and implement MPAs, using the Blue Park Award criteria as the blueprint for a better protected ocean. A Blue Park Award indicates that a marine protected area meets the highest science-based standards for marine biodiversity conservation.

“The Palau National Marine Sanctuary has the potential to protect an incredible diversity of marine wildlife,” said Dr. Sarah Hameed, Senior Scientist and Director of the Blue Parks initiative. “Together with the rest of the Blue Parks network, it will help safeguard life on this blue planet.”

This Blue Spark announcement for the Palau National Marine Sanctuary brings the total number of protected areas in Marine Conservation Institute’s Blue Parks network to 39 – 27 awarded Blue Parks and 12 Blue Sparks working toward the Blue Park standard. Palau National Marine Sanctuary and the other Blue Sparks represent tomorrow’s Blue Parks.


About Blue Parks

Blue Park Awards were established by Marine Conservation Institute to encourage high quality marine protected areas (MPAs) that safeguard marine wildlife, secure critical habitats, promote resilience, and ensure the inspiring beauty of our oceans for future generations. The effort aims to assemble an effective network that sustains marine life and ecosystems globally. Currently, there are 27 marine protected areas that have earned Blue Park Awards.

In addition to awarding new Blue Parks, Marine Conservation Institute has launched collaborations – Blue Sparks – with groups planning new marine protected areas and upgrading existing marine protected areas in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Panama, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Mozambique to ensure their efforts result in future Blue Parks.

About Marine Conservation Institute

Marine Conservation Institute, founded in 1996, works in the U.S. and globally to seek strong protection for at least 30% of the ocean by 2030—for us and future generations. Our focus on protecting the ocean’s most important places follows several lines of work: identifying and advocating for strong marine protected areas; improving laws and other tools to better conserve marine biodiversity; catalyzing effective conservation by recognizing and elevating the best marine protected areas as Blue Parks; and accurately reporting on global conservation efforts with our Marine Protection Atlas (

About Palau International Coral Reef Center

The mission of the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) is to be a center of excellence that produces high quality and impactful research, education and opportunities to support the stewardship of Palau’s ocean resources. Learn more about the PICRC’s work on the Palau National Marine Sanctuary.


Lucy Dickie, Communications and Outreach Officer
Palau International Coral Reef Center, Palau
+680 488 6950

Dr. Sarah Hameed, Senior Scientist & Blue Parks Director
Marine Conservation Institute, USA
+1 707 242 1997 mobile

Dr. Lance Morgan, President
Marine Conservation Institute, USA
+1 707 217 8242 mobile

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