Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Palau to the United Nations
Finalist, Seafood Champion Awards Advocacy Category
Dr. Caleb Otto, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Palau to the United Nations, has brought his small island nation to a position of leadership on the international stage through passionate advocacy for ocean health and sustainability at the United Nations.
Threats facing the western Pacific Ocean and its people include overfishing; illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; ghost fishing gear; and damaging industries. These weaken the resilience of ecosystems and threaten the health and productivity of the ocean. In response, Palau has taken a strong stance on a sustainable development goal for oceans, recognizing the critical importance of the oceans to human livelihoods and food security.
Palau played a leading role in championing the 10×20 Initiative, which calls on U.N. member states to declare 10 percent of their waters Marine Protected Areas by 2020. In 2015, Palau approved the creation of a marine sanctuary twice the size of Mexico. For a tiny island, this step to ban fishing, drilling and other damaging practices, in what became the world’s sixth-largest fully protected area and covers 80 percent of their waters, was a pioneering move and set a precedent for addressing the challenges facing island nations.
The approach by Palau to use the U.N. as a platform to highlight the important issues around ocean sustainability has yielded important results. The dogged resilience of representatives to secure support on issues such as the Sustainable Development Goals, Marine Protected Areas and ghost gear in international policy represents an understanding of how international instruments can work in harmony to provide the framework for meaningful change.