Traditional conservation touted at Palau ocean conference


At the MOU signing ceremony, Ngardok Nature Reserve, April 12, 2022. (Contributed Photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U. S. Department of the Interior’s deputy assistant secretary Keone Nakoa recently concluded a trip to the Republic of Palau where he participated in the seventh Our Ocean Conference, from April 13 to 14, 2022. Themed “Our Ocean, Our People, Our Prosperity,” the conference featured numerous panels where Nakoa hosted the Marine Protected Areas panel, highlighting the importance of collaborating with traditional and community leaders for the long-term and inter-generational success of natural resource and ocean conservation globally as well as in the Insular Areas. 

In Palau, Nakoa joined Paramount High Chief Reklai Bao Ngirmang, Palau Minister of Finance Kaleb Udui, Melekeok State Gov. Henaro Polloi, and other dignitaries in a Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony at the Ngardok Nature Reserve, officially launching a partnership between the National Park Service and the Palau national government, in partnership with the state government and the people of Melekeok for sustainable visitor use and tourism management of protected areas in Palau.  

“Marine and terrestrial protected areas are important management tools to conserve biodiversity, sustain healthy fisheries, safeguard ocean ecosystems, protect natural and cultural heritage, and address the climate crisis. To have longevity and be successful in practice, the support and commitment of the people who themselves hold the cultural and traditional knowledge of a community must be at the forefront,” said Nakoa. “This MOU between the National Park Service and Palau stands as a shining example of inclusive collaboration to promote traditional and modern knowledge sharing in management and planning for the future preservation of Palau’s sustainable practices and to protect its pristine environment.”  

“What an amazing two days this conference has been for the United States and Palau as co-hosts of the 7th Our Ocean Conference in Palau, where so many nations, islands, and communities, have come together to ensure a healthy ocean and to ensure we build a collective resilience against climate change for the future,” said U.S. Ambassador Hennessey-Niland. “The health of our ocean and the resilience of all people who depend upon it is also a critical component of a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific, and we look forward to continued strengthening of the important relationship we have with Palau towards our shared future.” 

On April 12 at the Ngardok Nature Reserves in Melekeok State, Palau Minister Kaleb Udui signs the MOU for a partnership for sustainable visitor use and tourism planning between the United States National Park Service and the Republic of Palau. (Contributed Photo)

“Twenty-five years ago, the people of Melekeok set aside the Ngardok Reserve as a protected area for our community and the prosperity of our people,” said Ngirmang. “It is our aspiration to build upon the strengths of our traditions and culture through this important collaboration with the National Park Service, to ensure the resilience and the strength of our natural resources for our people going into the future.” 

“Here in Palau, you can easily see the interdependence between the ocean, our land, and our people. The theme Our People, Our Ocean, and Our Prosperity is a theme that we take to heart as a proud co-host with the United States of the 7th Our Ocean Conference here in Palau,” said Udui. “We have been especially pleased to sign a partnership agreement with the National Park Service for tourism and sustainable visitor use planning and are encouraged that the financing mechanisms we have established can serve as a model for future collaboration.” 

Culturally and traditionally significant to the people of Melekeok, the Ngardok Nature Reserve is home to the largest freshwater body in Micronesia and numerous native plant and animal species. The NNR is part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Forest Global Early Observatory Network and is recognized as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. The traditional leaders and the community of Melekeok aspire for the NNR to serve as a model for excellence in research and preservation for other terrestrial and marine sites within Palau’s protected areas network and for the region. 

For more information about the Signing Ceremony for the MOU on Protected Area Planning, Training, and Technical Collaboration held at the Ngardok Nature Reserve visit NPS news releases on

For more on the Our Ocean Conference, visit their website at: (PR)

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