Neco Marine is a major sponsor for many sports and community events taking place in Palau. Yearly events include the Palau Boat Race (October) and the Palau Fishing Derby (May) featuring the Etpison Cup. On his many visits to the outer islands of Yap, our CEO was impressed by the traditional Micronesian knowledge of the stars, used for open ocean canoe navigation.
This knowledge is lost on Palau and only a few individuals still practice it on Yap. Shallum sponsored the relocation to Palau of Cesario Sewralur and his family, one of the last remaining experts alive on star navigation. Cesario now teaches traditional navigation courses at the Palau Community College supported by the Micronesian Voyaging Society.
Although Yap has become known for their regular reef manta encounters, Palau has a resident population of mantas around its channels that we are just starting to learn about. We have been photographing mantas for years, and are building up a database of belly IDs and unusual behavior for the Palau mantas. During the months of September to May each year, larger mantas visit the channels in Palau to mate and give birth. So far, over 100 different individual mantas have been photographed in Palau just this last season in four different locations. Six pregnant mantas were recorded this season at German Channel alone, and four newborn mantas. The largest gathering of feeding mantas ever filmed in Palau of over 60 individuals together took place just this March. We are starting a separate website just for the mantas, and encourage you to send us any photos or information you may have on Palau’s mantas, so for more manta information, please check it out
Neco Marine is also a partner for the PALAU DUGONG AWARENESS CAMPAIGN, which is coordinated by Mandy Etpison and supported by local NGOs, the Bureau of Marine Resources, Koror State, and Fish and Wildlife. The shy dugong sea cow is Palau’s most endangered marine mammal, and little is known about it. Palau has the smallest and most isolated dugong population in the world, with possibly less than 200 animals. Palauans still hunt and eat dugongs, and hunting remains a problem in spite of local laws protecting the dugong. The awareness campaign aims to educate Palauans about the dugong, survey their feeding grounds and daily routes, and work with local government agencies to improve enforcement on illegal poaching. So far the campaign has distributed educational materials like stickers, folders and posters to local schools, tour operators and government agencies, aired dugong awareness messages on local TV and news, and started the surveys by boat and helicopter, which will continue over the next year. A 12 feet life-sized wooden statue of a dugong mother with two calves made by the Etpison Museum was presented to the Minister of State for display in August 2010. The President of Palau named the statue, the mother “Tarkid” (part of us) and the calves “Mesekemam” (look out for us).
A 45-page free dugong educational booklet was distributed to all local schools, libraries, and government agencies in January 2011. The Palau awareness campaign has now evolved into a regional campaign supported by SPREP and UNEP/CMS with other pacific range countries such as PNG, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Australia, and the Solomon Islands. The regional launch was held in Palau on March 14, 2011.