Palau Correspondent

KOROR, Palau — President Thomas E. Remengesau Jr. was announced on Jan. 4 as the recipient of an international award for his ocean conservation initiative. In May the president will be awarded a Peter Benchley Ocean Award for excellence in national stewardship.

Often called the “Academy Awards for the Ocean,” according to the organization’s release, the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards acknowledge achievements across many sectors of society leading to the protection of oceans, coasts and the communities that depend on them.

The awards this year will honor a diverse group of eight ocean leaders, which include a New York Times investigative journalist, a French sailing expedition and the mayor of a San Diego border town. Past winners have included four heads of state, U.S. secretaries of state and defense, senators, leading marine scientists, journalists, explorers and citizens.

Remengesau signed into law on Oct. 28 legislation designating the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, which, as the world’s sixth largest fully protected marine area, covers 100% of Palau’s waters and includes an 80% no-take reserve and a 20% protected domestic fishing zone, protecting the nation’s territorial waters from any extractive activities including fishing, drilling and mining.

The ninth annual awards ceremony will be held May 20 at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, where recipients will receive award statues designed by marine artist Robert Wyland, known as Wyland.

Remengesau was also the recipient of the Champions of the Earth, the highest environmental accolade given by the United Nations, on Nov. 20 in Washington, D.C., and the 2014 Leadership Award from the Ocean Elders, which he received on Sept. 21, 2014, in New York.

The president will be in Saipan on Jan. 28 to speak as a world leader in environmental conservation at the Marianas Tourism Education Council Tourism Summit at the Pacific Islands Club Saipan. With the theme “One Ocean, One Heart,” the summit is expected to gather 300 students. mbj