The island nation of Palau, composed of 250 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, is quite a country. Yes, it’s a nation of unparalleled natural beauty (just type in “Palau” in your image search engine), but it’s more than a pretty face – it’s a country dedicated to the protection of marine species and its people’s livelihoods.

Back in 2009, Palau became the first in the world to establish an ocean shark sanctuary, realizing that sharks are actually far more valuable alive than dead.

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Indeed, a study by the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences and the University of Western Australia backed up this idea, revealing that just one reef shark can bring in nearly $2 million U.S. dollars “in its lifetime to the economy of Palau,” as reported by National Geographic.

Now, Palau is taking another big step, this time by banning commercial fishing altogether, establishing, as President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said, “a 100 percent marine sanctuary.”

How cool is that?!

According to Remengesau and the Herald Sun, the ban will help Palau preserve “a pristine environment” and “promote snorkeling, scuba diving and ecotourism as an alternative way to grow its economy.”

The ban will come into full effect after current fishing contracts with Japan, Taiwan, and some private companies expire, allowing only local fishing to continue within a 370 km (229 miles) “exclusive economic zone,” as the Herald Sun reports.

In addition to fishing activities, Remengesau cites effects of climate change and global warming, such as unpredictable weather patterns and sea level rises, as having an impact on fish populations and marine life.

With a “100 percent marine sanctuary” lined up, Palau might just be poised to be the next animal protection champion right up there next to Costa Rica. Great work, Palau!

Image source: Mike Baird / Flickr

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