Tuesday, December 2, 2008


While there continues to be every reason to be deeply concerned about the damage shark-finning by Palau's licensed foreign fishing fleets and other illegally operating pirate fleets is having on Palau's dwindling shark population, there is finally some positive news to report on Palau's struggle to protect their ever shrinking marine resources including sharks.

Palau's Division of Marine Law Enforcement is now operating a Marine Observer Program that places trained fisheries observers on some of the licensed foreign fishing vessels operating out of Malakal Harbor, Koror, Palau. This is a small but very positive step in the right direction. The purpose of the marine observer program is to gather data about the fishing practices engaged in by licensed fishing vessels and to monitor compliance with the fishing treaties and or licensing agreements under which these vessels are permitted to operate in Palau's waters. Data gathered by marine observers can be used to help develop and promote better fishing practices intended to reduce unintentional by-catch of sharks, turtles, billfish and other ocean dwellers that are often killed or injured during long-lining for tuna.

Marine Observer programs are not new and alone they may have little or no impact on poor or illegal fishing practices, but when combined with the support of law enforcement and the political will to protect marine resources they become an important window in to fishing industry practices and a valuable tool in holding the fishing industry more accountable for sustainable fishing practices.
I extend my hearty encouragement to Palau to expand the Marine Observer Program and I commend those Palauans in the Observer Program and in Law Enforcement who serve every day on the front lines in the never-ending battle to protect Palau's resources from exploitation and illegal destruction. They are our eyes and ears and are to be commended. Thanks for your hard work.

Saturday, November 22, 2008



First posted 11/22/08 on http://www.samstours.com/blog/

My good friend and internationally acclaimed photographer / environmentalist Gunther Deichmann has once again used the power of his lens to bring world attention to yet another of mans destructive practices in an unfortunately ever-growing list that shows a callous disregard for the world we will pass on to our children and their children.

Gunther was recently in Bali, Indonesia on a commercial photo shoot when he came across some boats being unloaded in the harbor. Much to his dismay the catch being unloaded was thousands and thousands of shark fins from species that included hammerheads, white tips, black tips and more. True to form, Gunther's first reaction was to start shooting pictures. So powerful were some of the images he shot that Germany's STERN MAGAZINE chose one as "Photo of the Week" (Issue #46, November 06, 2008). Britains DAILY MAIL also featured Gunther's images and story on shark-finning. Follow the link below to see the article:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1086501/A-sad-sharks-tale-Shocking-images-scale-fin-trade.html

I think it is safe to say that most divers are well aware that shark-finning represents massively destructive and absolutely unsustainable decimation of sharks and I'm likewise sure that most divers do not support the practice. But being aware of and or not supporting shark finning is simply not enough anymore. It is time for each and every one of us to do more right now!

The rate of destruction of sharks is already so monumental that there is a growing belief that many species of sharks are headed for extinction in our lifetime. It is hard to believe that sharks, a species that has existed for millions of years, face extinction at the hands of man on our watch. While there's no guarantee of success for any actions we may each take to try to end this wasteful practice, there is every assurance that if we FAIL TO TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION NOW to stop the rape of our oceans, sharks and many fish stocks too will be eliminated. Greed, corruption and massive profiteering is destroying the very world that we as its present stewards are supposed to hold in trust for our children. We must each take it upon ourselves to act against these forces for if we do not, we too are part of the problem.

I call on every diver to take an immediate and strong stance against shark-finning and to fully engage themselves every single day in rallying more and more non-divers to the cause. We need to relentlessly fight back against those who are destroying our oceans without regard for the future. We cannot allow them to win. To most of the world shark-finning is out of sight and therefore out of mind. By the time the world wakes up to the danger it will be too late! We have to work together now to keep this issue in the forefront and to bring about an immediate halt to this insance practice before the total collapse of shark populations signals their total extinction.

Won't you follow Gunther's lead and DO SOMETHING POSITIVE TODAY and every day hereafter to help protect sharks forever? Tomorrow is already too late!

If you need more information about shark finning simply Google “shark finning” follow the links and start reading!

For more on Gunther's incredible photography, some great tips on Apple Aperture & Photo Shelter, or interesting articles on the environment, follow the link below to: http://www.deichmann-photo.com/blog.html

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stealing the Future - Commercial Fishing in Palau, Micronesia

Palau has gained much international notariety for taking strong positions when it comes to protecting it's environment and natural resources including setting aside marine and terrestrial conservation areas, outlawing live reef fishing, and banning the taking of sharks or their fins. The President even set an illegal catch of shark fins on fire some years ago in protest against the then lax laws against shark finning.

While there are many great stories to tell about accomplishments made by Palau, there is also a sinister story that somehow gets brushed aside or swept under the rug, and that is the impact of licensing foreign fishing fleets to operate in Palau's waters. It doesn't take much research to find out that fisheries around the world are in grave danger of total collapse. It takes even less research to uncover the unsavory performance records and in many cases illegal activities associated with commercial fishing fleets worldwide. In the case of Palau, the main regional fishing fleets emanate from Japan, China, Philippines and Indonesia.
With fish stocks diminishing, bigger fleets are traveling farther and farther from their native fishing grounds to international waters and in all too many cases to the soveriegn waters of other nations where they plunder the resources of smaller nations helpless to prevent them. Palau is no exception. Whether or not fishing fleets are licensed to fish Palau's waters they invariably seem to show total disregard for contracts, licensing requirements, restrictions, rules, regulations, laws or conservation practices. For all intents and purposes it's a free for all when it comes to what they take and how much they take. Sure, some get caught, but that's just the tip of the iceberg! Violations include transhipping of catches to the Philippines to avoid revenues to Palau with vessels congregating north of Palau to offload more valuable catches to motherships instead of landing them in Palau. They take on of fuel at sea instead of in Palau. Captains lie and cheat on manifests to hide illegal catches and under report catch sizes and values. There are incident of smuggling of tobacco and alcohol.

Another continuing practice, despite Palau's tough laws and at one point tough enforcement that now seems to have been watered down or ceased altogether following the departure of attorney Christopher Hale of the Attorney Generals office, is the issue of shark finning. It was headline news in Palau for quite some time a few years ago but more recently seems to have faded away. At least the attention to this issue has faded but by all reports, the killing of sharks and taking of shark fins is very much alive and strong throughout both legal and illegal fishing fleets operating in Palau. With few exceptions, almost every foreign fishing vessel that was thoroughly searched by Palau law enforcement produced illegal catches including shark fins. It's almost guaranteed to be the same today. But apparently searches seem to be few and far between or simply not thorough enough. Shark fins are being stowed in hidden compartments underneath tuna holds and other areas of the vessels. Fleets are meeting offshore to unload their illegal catches. And all the while, Palau seems to do nothing to shut down illegal fishing in its' waters.

Recently, President Remengesau proposed that Palau pass legislation banning the export of all highly migratory fish from Palau. This could be a start, but there's sure to be a big political fight and even if it were to pass, its' not intended to take effect for several years. By then it won't even matter as the cupboard will already be bare! It's also election year in Palau and as in any election anywhere, there are bound to be powerful and influential financial forces at work.
Despite the damage and destruction they bring, foreign fishing fleets continue to operate in Palau because powerful and influential Palauans ensure they do so and profit accordingly. Palau's international "friendships" with the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan are perhaps another reason that Palau seems to turn a blind eye to the rape and pillage of it's natural resources. As a tiny island nation with limited financial resources, Palau is dependent on foreign aid and assistance from Taiwan, Japan, USA and others in almost every area including government subsidies, capital projects including roads and bridges, power, water and sewer, national health, education, maritime law enforcement, national defense and more. Palau must ask itself if the short term gains to be made by turning a blind eye to impact of foreign fishing fleets are truly worth the long term destruction of Palau's natural resources.

On one hand there is much rhetoric coming from Palauan leaders about the need to be self-sufficient especially in food supply and agriculture and on the other hand Palau let's their neighbors and so called friends steal their most important food source right from under their nose. Why is that? When is enough enough? Which Palauan has the courage and the willpower to tackle this issue? Now is the time for that person or persons to stand up and return fire in the great food war!
IMAGES: Courtesy Christopher Hale; Kevin Davidson

Monday, May 12, 2008

Balancing Profit versus Protection.

Balancing Profit versus Protection.

Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr., who launched the Micronesia Challenge recently signed new legislation known as the Protected Areas Network (PAN) to further Palau's efforts to preserve her pristine environment for the generations to come. The PAN legislation has been the subject of long-running debate and difference between some of Palau's 16 States and the national government. Funding for support of the Protected Areas Network will reportdely come from a $30 fee to be paid by visitors arriving in this tiny island nation. It is not clear at this writing exactly how fees will be collected but early reports suggest that the fee will be included in the cost of airline tickets. Palau gets approximately 80,000 visitors per year most of whom are scuba divers creating an estimated $2.4 million in revenue in support of this program. Many states in Palau also charge environmental fees including Koror State ($35) and Peleliu ($20) which get the largest share of divers. An additional departure tax of $20 per person also applies to visitors.

For more information on PAN legislation visit this link: http://www.mvariety.com/?module=displaystory&story_id=11181&format=html

On another environmental issue, Palau also recently passed legislation banning the export of live reef fish in order to help protect its' Northern Reefs which are reported to have been under pressure from companies involved in the live reef fish trade, exporting to Asian markets. The President reportedly expressed concern that insatiable markets in other countries would lead to the eventual destruction of Palau's reef habitats.

For more on the story go to: http://www.mvariety.com/?module=displaystory&story_id=11177&format=html