Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Please Sign Shark Savers THANK YOU to President Toribiong!

An on-line THANK YOU note to Palau President Johnson is open for signatures on Shark Savers web site.

I urge everyone who cares for the marine environment
to show support for Palau's declaration of a 
National Shark Sanctuary.


The Power of One!

I am a strong believer in the power of positive thinking. Likewise, I believe that one person CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. As I come to grips with the reality and magnitude of what one amazing person, President Johnson Toribiong of Palau, just did by declaring Palau a Shark Sanctuary, I reflect on being just “one” person back in 1995 when I set about my efforts to save sharks.

But just as true as it is that one person can indeed make a difference, it is equally true that achievement of Palau’s declaration as a Shark Sanctuary is not just the work of one person. On the contrary this ground-breaking achievement reflects collective efforts over time of a great many “ones” who believed that they too could make a difference and were willing to help.

No one person can lay claim to credit for Palau’s historic announcement at the U.N., including myself, and I simply don’t. This achievement is testament to a powerful collective effort by lots of “ones” who simply did what they could. There are many such “ones”, some visible and some invisible, but all of whom deserve credit for this tremendous decision
Just as with a digital image consisting of many pixels, no one pixel tells the whole story, but combined the pixels bring the image to life.

No pun intended, but all I did was my bit!

The rest is the work of others. To each and every “one” who pitched in and helped make this happen I am sincerely grateful and thankful for your contributions. Every “one” of you made a difference!

One such person is Edward Dorson, Professional Photographer and Advocate for the Ocean Environment. Edward has worked tirelessly and endlessly in rallying broad support for the protection of sharks and the marine environment in Palau. While Edward’s hard work may often seem invisible, the results of his efforts are not! Thanks Edward!

Another “one” is my long time friend and professional photographer Gunther Deichmann, who was an environmental activist before I knew what that even meant! His work and his friendship have inspired me over the years. He’s also been most generous in providing images, securing media coverage, and in building and hosting the Shark Sanctuary website at his expense. Gunther is a founding father of Palau Shark Sanctuary. Thanks GD!

Speaking of father figures!…..I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the encouragement and support of my good friend and “father” Dennis Camblin who schooled me and scolded me as necessary and helped me get Palau Shark Sanctuary off the ground. It would not have happened without him. Thanks Dennis!

And then there was “one”. Lots of “ones” in fact…and that’s Michael Skoletsky and Shark Savers. Michael responded to the call for help early this year when Palau’s shark protection laws were under threat by launching an on-line petition on his Shark Savers website. The Shark Savers petition resulted in more than 4,500 “ones” who signed and or sent letters from around the world urging Palau’s leadership to stand firm on their strong shark protection laws. The power of “one” multiplied. Thanks Michael!

No doubt there are other “ones”. But I’m pressed for time right now and want to post this before I sign off so I must stop here. Apologies in advance to those not yet mentioned. You’re next.


Monday, September 28, 2009

A Hero’s Welcome for Palau President Johnson Toribiong.

For Immediate Release:

KOROR, PALAU, 9/28/2009, 7:45 p.m.

A Hero’s Welcome for Palau President Johnson Toribiong.

Palau President H.E. Johnson Toribiong arrived home moments ago to a hero’s welcome at Koror International Airport, Palau, organized by Palau Shark Sanctuary. Dermot Keane, founder of Palau Shark Sanctuary and Managing Director of Palau dive shop Sam’s Tours, was on hand to greet the President and thanked him for declaring Palau a Shark Sanctuary.

(L) Dermot Keane, Palau Shark Sanctuary; (R) President Johnson Toribiong

The large welcome committee included grateful members of the Palauan community who greeted President Toribiong with flower leis and loud applause upon his arrival. Palauans are understandably proud of their President who declared Palau as a Shark Sanctuary during his recent address to the United Nations, General Assembly, on Friday, September 25, 2009.

(C): President Toribiong; (R): Sam Scott, Sam's Tours (blue shirt)

Despite his long journey from Washington D.C. to Palau, the President was clearly moved by the warm reception and graciously thanked everyone for showing up to welcome him. Palau Shark Sanctuary once again thanks and admires President Toribiong for his landmark declaration of Palau as a Shark Sanctuary.

Palau Shark Sanctuary was founded in 2001 with a goal of securing a declaration by Palau that the waters of their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are a Shark Sanctuary.

For more information visit: www.sharksanctuary.com or http://www.sharksanctuary.blogspot.com/

All images courtesy Nick Martorano - Ocean Wonders.

Images are approved for use provided credit is noted to:  http://www.oceanwonders.org/

Friday, September 25, 2009

President Toribiongs Landmark Speech to U.N. General Assembly

"The strength and beauty of sharks are a natural barometer for the health of our oceans.  Therefore, I declare today that Palau  will become the world’s first national shark sanctuary, ending all commercial shark fishing in our waters and giving a sanctuary for sharks to live and reproduce unmolested in our 237,000 square miles of ocean. We call upon all nations to join us." Johnson Toribiong, President of Palau, 9/25/09.

 Image Courtesy: Gunther Deichmann - http://www.deichmann-photo.com/blog.html

Below is President Toribiong's entire speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, September 25, 2009, in which he declared Palau as the world's first national shark sanctuary. 

I urge you to read this excellent speech and to then send a Thank You Note to President Toribiong commending him for his unprecedented actions to protect sharks and other marine creatures.

Send notes for President Toribiong to:  sharksanctuary@gmail.com
I will deliver them promptly to the President's Office.

Thank You!

SPEECH:    United Nations General Assembly, New York, September 25, 2009

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am speaking here for the first time as a Head of State.  However, in 1977, I appeared with my country’s delegation before the Trusteeship Council seeking independence.  In 1994, the Trusteeship ended and we took our place as a member of the United Nations. Our independence is testament to the success of the International Trusteeship System, for which we are grateful. The legacy of our experience is a Constitution which incorporates the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- freedom, democracy, equal protection, rule of law.

Mr. President,  
Palauans have lived throughout history in symbiosis with the sea.  We are seeing now though that the sea, which has long been the source of our sustenance, is both rising in rage to destroy us and becoming barren.  This fury was caused by the abuses of humankind and we therefore need to take every action necessary to allow the oceans to heal themselves.

In days gone by, the traditional chiefs of Palau would declare a “bul” – a moratorium to protect a resource which had become scarce. This traditional concept, now popularly known as conservation, shows the way for us to move forward.  As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed. “ This is why the world must declare a bul on destructive fishing practices like deep sea bottom trawling, unsustainable harvesting of shark for their fins and overexploitation of tuna stocks. 

Mr. President,
The odious fishing practice of bottom trawling, where a weighted net is dragged along the sea floor crushing nearly everything in its path, is contributing to the rapid loss of a critical ecosystem, our coral reefs. We have outlawed deep sea bottom trawling in Palau, but no matter what we do in our own waters, there must be an international solution.
For several years, we have advocated, along with our Pacific neighbors, a moratorium on this practice.  The Sustainable Fisheries resolution adopted by the UN in 2007, urged nations and regional fisheries management organizations to stop trawling in sensitive areas by 2009. We have waited for compliance, which has not come, and now renew our call for a worldwide moratorium on this practice.

Mr. President,
An equally destructive fishing practice is shark-finning.  We have banned it in Palau and call upon the world to address this issue in order to save the sharks from extinction. 

The strength and beauty of sharks are a natural barometer for the health of our oceans.  Therefore, I declare today that Palau  will become the world’s first national shark sanctuary, ending all commercial shark fishing in our waters and giving a sanctuary for sharks to live and reproduce unmolested in our 237,000 square miles of ocean. We call upon all nations to join us.

Mr. President,
It is anomalous that Palau is experiencing economic difficulty while it sits in the middle of the richest waters in the world.  We can no longer stand by while foreign vessels illicitly come to our waters to take our greatest resource, our tuna stocks, without regard to their conservation and without regard for adequate compensation to the island states which rely on this resource.

Palau believes that the best model for a regional effort to conserve our tuna resources and maximize the benefits to us is the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). I therefore will work for the establishment of OTEC, the Organization of Tuna Exporting Countries, and I now call upon our friends in OPEC to come forward and help us to understand and obtain fair value from our threatened resource and to make tuna fishing sustainable. 

Mr. President,
I come now to the economic crisis which my country is facing.  As a developing nation, we are grateful for the grants provided by our allies and partners to advance our development.  They have been helpful.  But, we must acknowledge that outright grants do not always create meaningful employment.  Jobs created are illusory and temporary. 

Without a strong local economy, our children, our most valuable resource, are leaving our shores for opportunities elsewhere.  As they leave it creates a continuing downward cycle which we must stop. 

Our allies and partners can help us stop this cycle by promoting the development of private enterprise in our country. We need capital, and entrepreneurial expertise. I implore our allies and partners to consider providing incentives to their nationals to encourage them to come to our islands and launch partnerships with our talented people to create a viable economy. Let us once and for all put aside the fiction that we need handouts. What we need are partners to help advance our economy and put an end to the out-migration of our people. 

Mr. President,
We note with satisfaction the decision by the People’s Republic of China to invite Taiwan to attend the World Health Assembly.  The health and safety of the world’s people is at the heart of the ideals of the UN. In order to further promote these, we recommend that Taiwan be invited to participate meaningfully in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other international organizations. 

Mr. President,  
We have heard the voices of world leaders from countries small and large, powerful and vulnerable.  We have heard the voice of science.  Let us heed these voices, fulfill our obligations to our people, and work for a strong economy and a healthy planet. 

Thank you.

#   #   #

Thursday, September 24, 2009



H.E. Johnson Toribiong, President of the Republic of Palau, a tiny Pacific Island nation, will announce to the General Assembly of the United Nations on Friday September 25, 2009, that Palau has officially declared the waters of its Exclusive Economic Zone (230, 000 Sq. Miles / 620,000 Sq. Kms.) as the worlds first officially recognized SHARK SANCTUARY!
President Toribiong will also call for a global ban on shark-finning and for other nations to follow suit. Through his actions, President Toribiong places Palau at the very forefront of worldwide efforts to protect sharks from unsustainable destruction. This is tremendous news for Palau and for the worldwide battle to protect sharks from unsustainable destruction!

Palau Shark Sanctuary anxiously awaits President Toribiong's official announcement and is standing by to commend him in the highest possible manner for his international leadership in world wide efforts to protect sharks.
Palau Shark Sanctuary

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Public Forum On Shark Fins

I just came across this post on Fins Online Magazine regarding a Public Forum on Shark Fins that was held recently in Singapore. Some interesting and disturbing facts and figures. It's worth a read.


Public Forum On Shark Fins

Posted using ShareThis

Monday, September 7, 2009

Post # 2 of 2 on Status of Shark Protection in Palau Today!

(See Post 1 of 2 Below):
Post 1 provided an overview of shark fishing and finning in Palau going back at least as far as 1995, passage of some of the world's toughest shark protection legislation in 2003, and ended with a report on the status of Senate Bill 8-44 (proposal to permit shark fishing and finning) which was submitted to Congress (OEK) in March 2009, and recently deferred by the Senate in August until their next session this coming October.
On the negative side (very negative), SB 8-44 proposed to undo Palau's world-leading shark protection legislation and instead promote the commercial fishing sharks and shark finning in Palau's waters. Make no mistake, passage of SB 8-44 has the potential to not only destroy Palau's fisheries (including sharks, turtles, rays, tuna and more) but also seriously threatens tourism, kingpin of Palau's fledgling economy. Likewise, passage of SB 8-44 will destroy in seconds the years of investment by Palau in strong environmental stewardship that has led to its’ current world-wide positive reputation as an environmental leader. In short, SB 8-44 risks not only the present and the future, but squanders the past. And thus far for no demonstrable benefit to Palau or Palauans! The international (including local) outcry that has arisen as a result of the proposal of SB 8-44 is in every way justifiable and should not rest until the threat is completely eliminated.

And now to the positive side! Surely there must be one, right?

The introduction of SB 8-44, has brought increased international and local attention to the utmost importance of sharks to healthy marine habitats, raised awareness of the massive threats sharks face at the hands of legal and illegal commercial fishing worldwide, highlighted the value of a healthy and thriving shark population to Palau's tourism based economy , and has brought in to public light the shocking theft and unsustainable destruction of all marine resources within Palau’s EEZ, by foreign fishing fleets.

Out of sight is so often also out of mind. And in the case of commercial fishing in Palau’s EEZ which takes place out of sight of land, few if any in the local community truly understand the horrendous rate of unsustainable destruction of Palau’s resources that is going on just over the horizon. (Recent aerial surveillance recorded 70 foreign fishing craft in Palau’s EEZ at one time).

Even fewer people to date have been aware of the relatively miniscule contributions by licensed fishing to Palau’s national treasury let alone the massive losses Palau incurs from illegal acts of piracy of Palau’s fisheries by international commercial fishing fleets. There are expert estimates that less than 7% of the market value of fish taken from Pacific Island waters (including Palau) actually ends up in the country from whose waters the catch was taken. Put another way, 93% of the value of fish taken from Pacific Island waters (including Palau) goes to foreign fishing fleets and or their home countries and NOT TO PALAU! That alone should be cause for outrage. And it just may be….or at the very least is the seed for a growing outrage.

The more the issue of shark fishing and finning is discussed in Palau (as a result of SB 8-44) the more focused is the attention being paid to the practices both legal and illegal of foreign fishing fleets both licensed and unlicensed in Palau’s waters. The onion is indeed being peeled back and the real and very rotten truth is starting to come to light. Finally, there is a growing realization within the community that commercial fishing by foreign fishing fleets in Palau’s waters is both costly and destructive to Palau and cannot possibly be sustained.
The pressure must therefore be maintained on bringing to light to the community the true costs, damage and dangers that commercial fishing poses to all of Palau’s marine resources including our sharks.
As was pointed out by recent visitors from PEW Foundation who came to Palau to assess the situation here regarding shark protection, the laws presently on the books in Palau and which remain in full effect despite any efforts to change them, are indeed among the toughest pieces of shark protection legislation of any nation around the world.

In effect, Palau is already a SHARK SANCTUARY….the process of formalizing it just has to be completed. It’s yet another reason why SB 8-44 must be defeated.
Palau must be urged to complete what it started with it’s already bold stand on protecting sharks, by protecting forever the landmark legislation that SB 8-44 seeks to undo!

On that I am very positive!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Shark Protection in Palau. Where Are We?

There is no question that the battle to protect Palau's sharks must continue and it does, but perhaps it's time to review just exactly where we are right now in order to help determine how best to continue the fight.

Shark Protection in Palau, September 2009:

Despite efforts by some to the contrary, Palau continues its' six-year world leadership with perhaps the strongest shark protection legislation yet passed worldwide!

Summary of Palau’s Shark Protection Law as of September 2003:

Palau’s laws makes it illegal for any foreign-fishing vessel to have any part of any shark, or turtle, or ray, on board at any time, for any reason, dead or alive.

If a shark or turtle or ray is caught alive it must be returned to the water in a manner that best ensures its survival. If dead it must be returned to the water in whole. It is a violation of the law to have onboard at any time a “steel leader”. A “leader” is the first several feet of fishing line joining the hook to the main body of line. Steel “leaders” (as opposed to monofilament fishing line) are used to target sharks as they cannot bite through the steel cable. Fines of up to $250,000 per incident are permitted against violators (each shark can be counted as one incident).

How Did We Get To This Point?

IN 1995, and before, alarm was growing in several areas of the community as knowledge of the destruction of sharks that was occuring in Palau's waters at the hands of licensed foreign fishing vessels began to emerge. Shark fishing and shark finning was not illegal in Palau at the time and foreign fishing boats with shark fins hanging from their rigging were not unusual sights in Malakal Harbor. Who knows for how long this had been going on before it came to the attention of those who recognized the danger?

An unsung hero in the passage of Palau’s first shark protection legislation is Noah Idechong, a former PEW Fellow, and current Delegate representing Ngiwal State to Palau’s Congress (OEK). As far back as 1997, and perhaps earlier, Idechong was fighting for shark protection laws for Palau. He was instrumental in crafting of the shark protection legislation that was eventually passed and played a key role in successfully guiding it through the long and difficult process of legal review, building of community support, overcoming of objections, and in finally rallying sufficient political support to secure their passage. Without his efforts Palau may not have taken such an early stance against shark fishing and shark finning.

IN NOVEMBER 2001, Palau Shark Sanctuary was founded with the goal of establishing the waters of Palau's Exclusive Economic Zone as a SHARK SANCTUARY.

IN MAY 2003, Palau’s President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr., demonstrated his strong support for passage of even tougher shark protection laws by publicly set fire to shark fins found aboard a foreign vessel caught fishing illegally in Palau waters. Shark fishing was by then illegal but maximum fines allowed against violators were minimal and not a deterrent at all. It was a message heard round the world.
IN SEPTEMBER 2003, (6 years ago this month), President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr., signed in to law some of the world's toughest shark protection legislation with heavy penalties of up to $250,000 per incident for violators. This ground-breaking legislation remains the law in Palau today, despite recent efforts to overturn it.

In the 6 years since Palau’s bold move in 2003, no other country that I am aware of has passed shark protection laws remotely close to the strength of Palau’s laws.

IN JANUARY 2004, Palau received international recognition from Shark Project as recipient of their very first Shark Guardian of The Year Award, for passage of such tough shark protection laws.
Enforcement of Shark Protection - A Running Battle:

In the months and years since 2003, Palau’s Division of Marine Law Enforcement which operates Palau’s lone patrol boat “Remeliik” has been engaged in the frontline battle to protect Palau’s fisheries including enforcement of shark protection laws. Likewise, Palau’s Customs Officers and other law enforcement personnel have been engaged in monitoring the activities of foreign fishing vessels in Palau’s waters and have been successful in prosecuting a growing list of violators through Palau’s courts.

In my 12/8/08 Post I highlighted Palau's Marine Observer Program as yet another step in Palau's efforts to protect its fisheries and enforce its laws.
But fisheries protection for Palau is a classic "David versus Goliath" battle in the form of an international game of cat and mouse.

Fleets of legal and illegal foreign fishing vessels from larger wealthier countries that include Japan, Taiwan, Philippines and Indonesia boldly violate Palau's laws and pirate their marine resources simply because they think they can. But Palau is not alone in the fight nor willing to give up quite so easily as recent high seas arrests by "Remeliik" has shown.

Read back through posts on http://sharksanctuary.blogspot.com/ for more reports.

The Royal Australian Navy which provided Palau (and many other Pacific Island nations) with their patrol boat maintains a Maritime Surveillance Team on the ground in Palau to advise and support the efforts of “Remeliik” in fisheries protection. The Royal Australian Navy Team provides technical assistance and training to the crew of “Remeliik” while the vessel itself is operated by an all Palauan crew.

The Royal Australian Air Force also lends a hand with maritime surveillance using P3-Orion aircraft to monitor Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone. On a recent 3 day aerial patrol in August 2009, a total of 70 fishing vessels were recorded from countries that included Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan and Japan.
Assault on Shark Protection in Palau:

JANUARY 2009, Palau’s mostly new government of 16 State Delegates and 13 Senators was sworn in to office, along with Palau's new President H.E. Johnson Toribiong, thereby ending the eight year Remengesau administration.

Assault on Palau's Shark Protection Laws:

MARCH 5, 2009, Senate Bill B No. 8-44 which proposes to allow commercial fishing for sharks was introduced by a newly elected Senator and passed on 1st reading that same day.
MARCH 26, 2009, SB No. 8-50 which proposes to exempt commercial fishing companies from export taxes on fish caught by purse-seining methods for a period of 5 years was also introduced by another newly elected Senator and passed first reading on the same day too.

So began the recent campaign to weaken and or repeal Palau’s six year old world-leading shark protection legislation and place Palau’s fisheries under threat. (Read March 17 and April 2, 2009, posts on this Blog for more details).

IN A MARCH 17, 2009, Blog post, Palau Shark Sanctuary raised the alarm to the international community who immediately rallied to the cause with letters, blogs, petitions, radio shows and more, urging Palau’s newly installed government to maintain Palau’s strong shark protection and fisheries laws.
IN MARCH 2009, SB 8-44 was brought forth for discussion in the Senate which ended in deadlock and therefore the bill was deferred for possible action in the next session of congress scheduled to occur in October 2009.

Part Two to Follow……..Stay Tuned!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Savings Sharks in Palau – Bad & Good News!

A Broken Record on Repeat ! But wait! ...there's more.........

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my Blog on what’s happening with sharks, shark protection, and the efforts to repeal Palau’s landmark shark protection legislation which is among the toughest in the world. There is much to report and my lack of posting is simply a reflection of the incredible and almost overwhelming pressure bearing down on sharks and shark conservation in Palau from so many angles that it is simply impossible for Palau’s marine law enforcement personnel let alone one person such as me to keep on top of things. We need help on every front and appreciate the efforts of those already engaged.

I’ve not been idle in the battle to protect Palau’s sharks but alas neither have those intent on exploiting Palau’s sharks regardless of the environmental or economic consequences. Just as in the case of the numerous “Survivor” shows that have been shot in Palau, when it comes to shark protection and marine law enforcement it continues to be a case of who will outlast, outplay and outwit whom. Shall good triumph over evil?


In my last post back in April 2009, I reported on the continuing pillage of Palau’s sharks by foreign fishing vessels. Sadly but oh! so predictably it continues just as before. Most recently (August 2009) there was yet another in a long and growing list of foreign fishing vessels caught illegally fishing in Palau’s waters and of course upon inspection, it was found to be loaded with sharks and shark fins. The officers and crew of Palau’s lone patrol boat “REMELIIK” are to be commended for their ongoing efforts to bring these international criminals to justice but unfortunately not everyone in Palau, including some of our leaders, appear to respect the importance, significance and sacrifices of their work.

Weakening or repealing Palau's present shark protection laws as proposed in SB 8-44, will almost certainly prevent Palau's law enforcement personnel from successfully prosecuting high seas criminals hell bent on stealing Palau's sovereign resources.

I was on vacation and therefore not around to photograph and document the shocking catch of yet another illegal shark-finning pirate, but unfortunately it probably looks the same as the myriad images I’ve already taken over the years of senselessly slaughtered sharks, so I’m posting some file photos instead, all of which are taken in Palau.

LEGISLATION (SB 8-44): (More Bad News!)

It’s also no secret that earlier this year (March 17 post) Senate Bill (SB) 8-44 was introduced by one of Palau’s newly elected Senators which proposes to repeal Palau’s world-leading shark protection laws and instead permit and promote commercial shark fishing and shark finning for the supposed economic gain of Palau. No evidence or data was included in the bill that supported an economic argument justifying the bills introduction quite likely because there is none.

The real issue is the battle between those who seek to exploit Palau’s resources for short term and or personal gain at any cost and those who believe in the sustainable management of Palau's natural resources for the long term benefit of the entire community.

While the message being put forth by supporters of the proposed legislation for commercial shark fishing and finning (SB 8-44) is one of “we are taking care of Palauans”, conversations with many other Palauans indicate that they are repulsed by what is being proposed (supposedly to their benefit) by some of their leaders. There is great concern that SB 8-44 is being driven by wealthy overseas commercial fishing companies, especially from the Philippines, that may have compromised sound decision-making by some of Palau's leaders in exchange for personal gain.

Palauans have long history of sustainable use of their resources. It is not a new idea. On the contrary it is a practice that has been integral to Palauans' survival for hundreds of years. When Palauans are exposed to the real truth and evidence of the massive damage and destruction already being done to their fisheries by illegal foreign fishing companies they will surely be even more revolted. It's not just about sharks, it concerns all of Palau's marine resources. The waters of Palau's Exclusive Economic Zone are under immense and ever-increasing onslaught by licensed and unlicensed fishing companies seeking out every last living creature within. Aerial surveillance shows strings of illegally placed FADs (Fish Attracting Devices) placed in Palau's waters and surrounded by foreign fishing vessels that are quite likely taking everything they possibly can including tuna, sharks, turtles, rays and anything else that will turn a profit for them. And where does the money go? In to the hands of foreign fishing companies and the pockets of those who do their bidding. And what about Palau's fisheries? Most every Palauan fisherman will readily admit that there are less fish in their waters today than a mere ten years ago.

While it may take science to prove that, it certainly doesn't take a scientist to figure out that it's true. And it makes sense. Palau's waters are being vacuumed bare at an ever increasing rate both legally and illegally....but it's been out of sight and scrutiny of the community for many years. Now the effects of unsustainable destruction of high seas fisheries are beginning to be seen closer to shore and questions are now being raised within the community. Instead of weakening shark protection laws there are a growing number that belives it is time for Palau to toughen and broaden protection of its' marine resources and to punish scofflaw illegal fishing companies for their acts of piracy, in full view of the international community. Palau can do it!

Although Palau is among the newest and smallest countries in the world and within the United Nations, Palau has long track record of strong leadership in conservation that shames many of the so called and much wealthier developed nations.

Just as one person can make a difference, so too can one country.

GOOD NEWS! (And we sure need some!)

For now, SB 8-44 is deferred until the next Congress session in October (at which time it will undoubtedly rear its ugly head once again). It's a good start for now and one we hope to build on. Many thanks to all who helped thus far.

On another positive note, the dive industry, tour companies, Palau Chamber of Commerce, Belau Tourism Association, Palau Visitors Authority and a growing number of private individuals are strongly united in opposition to SB 8-44. Palau Chamber of Commerce and Belau Tourism Association have issued strong public statements in opposition to any lessening of shark protection in Palau and in fact may soon call for even stronger shark protection legislation.

With the aid of Michael Skoletsky http://www.sharksavers.org/ more than 4,500 signatures have already been collected from around the world and delivered to Palau’s leadership voicing clear opposition to the legalization of shark fishing and shark finning proposed in SB 8-44. Yet another testament that one person can indeed make a difference. I urge you to get involved!

This very moment there are members of PEW Foundation (http://www.pewenvironment.org/) on the ground in Palau assessing the situation and evaluating where and when they may be of assistance to Palau in securing the continued and increased protection of our sharks. Thus far they have been very positively received and are quite impressed with the strong sentiment in the community that shark fishing and shark finning are both inappropriate and unacceptable practices in Palau's waters.

I'm also very pleased to report that the House of Traditional Leaders, a powerful organization of Palauan traditional chiefs that serves in an advisory capacity to elected President H.E. Johnson Toribiong, are in opposition to any weaking of Palau's strong shark protection laws.

I will wrap this rather lengthy post with the message of hope that while the plight of sharks worldwide is indeed depressing and demoralizing, the growing resolve of the community in Palau to fight for their protection, regardless of the odds, is both invigorating and inspirational.

One person can make a difference. Every persons effort counts. If you care about the health of the oceans, this is the time to stand up and be counted too. Get involved!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shark Fishing Continues! Thumbing Their Noses at Palau!

Like a broken record, I am sad to report yet another case of apparent illegal shark fishing by a foreign fishing vessel licensed to commercially fish in Palau’s waters through a local fishing company. Despite Palau’s very clear laws prohibiting shark fishing and despite the fact that boat captains, crews, and fishing companies are more than well aware of the laws, they continue to boldly thumb their noses at Palau and demonstrate their total disregard for Palau’s laws and ocean environment. Like a broken record, the company under which the fishing vessel is licensed to operate in Palau has been repeatedly charged with previous violations of Palau’s shark fishing laws. Why those who so clearly have total disregard for Palau resources and conservation laws are continually encouraged and invited to operate is a glaring question that appears to have but one answer. MONEY! Or perhaps two answers. BIG MONEY!! (Picture: Gunther Deichmann. Illegal Sharks Bali, Indonesia)

About a week ago a foreign fishing vessel licensed in Palau under locally owned company Kuniyoshi Fishing Company (KFC), ran aground on the reefs off the east side of Palau adjacent to Airai State. While it apparently took several days for investigative teams to conduct a search and survey of the area and or the boat, sources in Palau inform me that bags of shark fins and or shark carcasses along with steel leaders used by fishermen to specifically target sharks, were found underwater in the area where the boat ran aground. The use of steel leaders is prohibited under Palau law. Apparently the vessel was enroute from the fishing grounds to Malakal Harbor for unloading when the captain fell asleep causing the boat to hit the reef. One can only speculate what evidence may have been destroyed before authorities were able to secure the scene.

The Attorney Generals Office has reportedly filed notice of probable cause and is expected to file charges against the fishing company with a number of violations.

As you may be aware, Palau has very clear and very strong laws adopted in 2003 that protect sharks and forbid foreign fishing vessels from having any part of any turtle, shark, or ray on board at any time, dead or alive. Likewise, steel leaders are prohibited on board as they are clearly the tools of those who target sharks. But Palau’s laws are under threat of repeal at this very moment if recently introduced Senate Bill SB8-44, to permit commercial fishing for sharks and shark finning, passes in to law. A follow-up killer punch is Senate Bill SB 8-50, also recently introduced, which proposes to encourage commercial purse-seining fisheries in Palau’s waters by granting them a 5 year exemption on the fish export taxes payable to Palau.

Clearly, there are opposing forces at work and incompatible forces at that. Palau relies heavily on tourism as the mainstay of its emerging economy and yet heavy pressure is being applied to pass laws that many believe will destroy the very environment upon which Palau has staked its future. We cannot have unsustainable fisheries and sustainable tourism. Palau must choose one or the other.

The shark conservation organization SHARK SAVERS has created an on-line petition where you may register your opposition to Senate Bill 8-44 and commercial shark fishing in Palau. At last report, over two thousand petitioners around the world have registered their objections to SB 8-44, and encouraged Palau to maintain their reputation and status as an environmental role-model. Please visit the link below and sign this petition today.

Petition Link: http://www.sharksavers.org/get-involved/sign-these-petitions/542-petition-to-palau-stop-senate-bill-8-44-on-shark-fishing.html

Comments are also requested to be submitted to Palau Chamber of Commerce and Belau Tourism Association respectively at: pcoc@palaunet.com and bta@palaunet.com


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Update: Proposed Shark Fishing Legislation, Palau, Micronesia.

The two controversial Senate Bills (SB8-44 and SB8-50) which propose to undo Palau’s landmark shark protection laws adopted under the previous Remengesau Administration in 2003, are both pending at the Senate Committee on Resources, Commerce, Trade and Development.

SB No. 8-44 which proposes to allow commercial fishing for sharks was introduced on March 5, 2009 and passed 1st reading on that same day.

SB No. 8-50 which proposes to exempt commercial fishing companies from export taxes on fish caught by purse-seining methods for a period of 5 years was introduced on March 26, 2009 and passed first reading on the same day too.

For background on these controversial Bills read earlier posts on this Blog. Visit Palau Shark Sanctuary for more information on shark conservation efforts in Palau at:

According to Senate sources if the committee reports on these proposed Bills in the next session of the Senate which opens tomorrow, the Bills will go to their 2nd Reading.

The shark conservation organization SHARK SAVERS has created an on-line petition where you may register your opposition to Senate Bill 8-44 and commercial shark fishing. Please visit the link below and sign this petition today. Time is of the essence. Please act now!

PETITION: http://www.sharksavers.org/en/get-involved/sign-these-petitions/542-petition%20-to-palau-stop-senate-bill-8-44-on-shark-fishing.html

BLOG: http://www.sharksavers.org/en/blogs/shark-savers-blog.html

Also, please continue to pass the word to others and continue to submit comments to Palau Chamber of Commerce and Belau Tourism Association respectively at: pcoc@palaunet.com and bta@palaunet.com

Many thanks to all who have already acted including professional photographers and environmentalists EDWARD DORSON, TODD ESSICK and GUNTHER DEICHMANN who are among the many concerned individuals who have taken time to submit their comments in opposition to these Bills. These professional photographers have all visited and dived in Palau and know just how important sharks are to Palau’s tourism industry and to the entire marine eco-system. We appreciate their support.

Visit their websites and blogs for more information and fantastic images at:

Edward Dorson: http://dorsonstudios.com/

Todd Essick: http://www.blogger.com/www.essickphoto.com

Gunther Deichmann: http://gdphotonews.blogspot.com/



Tuesday, April 7, 2009

International Response to Threat to Palau's Sharks!

Just a quick update to thank all of you who have taken the time to submit your comments regarding the proposed legislations to permit commercial shark fishing and promote purse-seining in Palau's EEZ. There is still time to comment, so if you've not already done so, please take the time now and submit your comments. For more information on the issue at hand, please read the post immediately preceding this one.

All messages sent to the Belau Tourism Association bta@palaunet.com and Palau Chamber of Commerce pcoc@palaunet.com have been submitted to the Senate Committee in charge of reviewing these Bills.

By way of clarification, these Bills were submitted by just two of Palau's thirteen Senators and don't necessarily reflect the position of the Administration or other Senators. The Bills will be reviewed in Committee before further action is taken. It is therefore very important that the review committee hears from as many people as possible on the potential damage to Palau's marine environment and tourism industry that passage of these proposed Bills (SB8-44 and SB8-50) may cause.

Following are LINKS to some of the organizations that have already publicized this issue that includes SHARK DIVERS, FINS ONLINE MAGAZINE, GUNTHER DEICHMANN, STOP SHARK FINNING. RTSEABLOG. I sincerely appreciate your support. I also apologize to those I've missed and I'm sure there are plenty. I will post more links as time permits.







I've also had support from http://www.year-of-the-shark-2009.org
Let Sharks Live Think Tank Network
and from http://savesharksnow.livejournal.com/

I am working on an online petition and other outreach programs and will post that information as soon as I can.

Please continue to spread the word and urge as many people as possible to submit their comments.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Pressure Mounts on Palau's Sharks and Other Marine Species!

On the heels of recently proposed legislation (SB8-44) that would undo Palau's ban on shark fishing comes yet another threat to Palau's marine resources and national treasury by way of proposed legislation (SB8-50) to exempt fishing companies from export taxes on fish caught by purse seining and to allow those fish to be off-loaded at a foreign port(s).

SENATE BILL S-44 proposes:
"To amend Title 27 of the Palau National Code to allow for the commercial fishing of sharks within Palau's Exclusive Economic Zone, to impose a tax on the export of sharks and tuna-like species, and for other related purposes."

SENATE BILL S-50 proposes:
"To exempt, for a period of five years, the export of tuna and tuna-like species caught using the group purse seining or handline fishing method from Palau's fish export tax, to allow for an alternate transshipment port for fish caught using the group purse seining or handline fishing method, and for other related purposes."

The bill goes on to say in Section 4: "For five year from the effective date of this Act, the export of any fish caught by a commercial fishing company using the group purse seining or handline fishing method shall be exempt from the fish export tax"

If these two proposed bills pass in to law, the combined effect will be:
  • To permit and encourage the killing of sharks in Palau's waters
  • To promote shark finning
  • To promote fishing methods that according to Monterey Bay Aquarium "result in large amounts of unintended catch" including sharks, dolphins, turtles, rays and juveniles: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_gear.aspx
  • To exempt fishing companies from any export taxes on fish taken from Palau's waters
  • To make it practically impossible for Palau's law enforcement personnel to successfully prosecute alleged violators in the courts
  • To risk destroying Palau's sustainable tourism industry
  • To risk destroying Palau's marine resources through unsustainable practices
  • To gamble on all of the above for no apparent gain to Palau or Palauans.

Both proposed Bills are conspicuously absent of any information, explanation or data to demonstrate a positive benefit to the People of Palau and or Palau's National Treasury from passage of these Bills. Meanwhile, members of Palau's tourism industry are becoming increasingly alarmed at the potential severe negative impacts on tourism and the pristine marine environment that underpins that industry, if these Bills pass in to law.

There are very active negotiations underway between Palau and The Philippines at this very time to enter in to commercial fishing agreements and clearly there are elements of strong political support for the fishing companies as indicated by SB 8-44 and SB 8-50.

The private industry organizations Palau Chamber of Commerce (pcoc@palaunet.com) and Belau Tourism Association (bta@palaunet.com) and the government tourism office Palau Visitors Authority (pva@visit-palau.com) are urging those around the world opposed to shark fishing, shark finning and unsustainable fishing practices to please express their concerns immediately by e-mail to all of the respective organizations.

It is ironic in The International Year of The Shark 2009, that Palau, the worlds very first winner of Sharkprojects "Shark Guardian of The Year Award" is considering legislation that could potentially put it at bitter odds with the international shark conservation community and destroy its reputation as a world class dive destination known for abundant sharks and large pelagic animals.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Repeal of Palau's Shark Protection Laws Proposed!

A bill has been submitted to Palau's OEK (Congress) that if passed would eliminate Palau's strong shark protection laws and actively encourage fishing for sharks and the taking of shark fins.

Senate Bill No. 8-44 seeks "to amend Title 27 of Palau's National Code to allow for the commercial fishing of sharks within Palau's Exclusive Economic Zone, to impose a tax on the export of sharks and tuna-like species, and for other related purposes."

The proposed law is a potentially severe blow to Palau's tourism industry of which scuba diving is the mainstay. Palau gained international recognition in 2004 for passage of landmark legislation that protected sharks, turtles and rays and outlawed the practice of shark-finning. Under Senate Bill 8-44 it is unclear whether shark fishing and or shark-finning is or is not permitted and the ambiguity will make it virtually impossible for law enforcement to successfully prosecute potential violators. Sections of the bill read as follows:

"It is unlawful for any person: to remove the fins of or otherwise intentionally mutilate or injure any such shark"

"It shall be unlawful for any person to have on board a fishing vessel shark fins that total more than five percent of the weight of sharks on board."

Other provisions of the proposed Act call for:

"An appropriate export tax for shark and fish caught pursuant to this Act."

"A minimum monetary or in-kind fish donation that commercial fishing companies shall make to the Belau National Hospital, the Aging Program within the Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs, or similar governmental agency or private, non-profit organization. These donations shall come from fish or shark caught pursuant to this Act, or revenues generated from those fish or shark."

Members of the Belau Tourism Association, Palau Chamber of Commerce and the Palau Visitors Authority are strongly opposed to passage of this legislation.

Fishing company consortiums from the city of General Santos, Philippines, are pressing hard for rights to fish in Palau's Exclusive Economic Zone and it is widely believed that introduction of this bill is no mere coincidence. Foreign fishing fleets have a well documented track record of violating Palau's environmental laws, poaching Palau's marine resources and violating fishing agreements. This proposed Bill puts the Palau's tourism industry directly at odds with commercial fishing in Palau's waters as the two are simply incompatible.

In 2004 Palau was recognized by shark conservation agency Sharkproject as their Shark Guardian of The Year. Passage of Senate Bill 8-44 will be a sudden and potentially costly about face for Palau that will yield no gain. Palau only stands to lose...lose its fisheries and its dive industry.

I urge you to speak out against this proposed Bill by sending your comments to all of the following organizations who are fighting against Senate Bill 8-44:
Belau Tourism Association: bta@palaunet.com
Palau Chamber of Commerce: pcoc@palaunet.com
Palau Visitors Authority: pva@visit-palau.com

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Every Week is SHARK WEEK in Palau!

For Immediate Release:
Dusseldorf, Germany: January, 17, 2009

Announcing S.AV.E. Our Sharks – Shark Awareness Visitor Education Program!

Sam’s Tours Palau is pleased to announce the official launch of SHARK WEEKS (http://www.sharkweeks.com/) marking a year long commitment to shark awareness and education in support of the International Year of The Shark 2009, to help bring an end to the unprecedented slaughter and destruction of sharks worldwide.

Palau is renowned among divers for exciting encounters with sharks in their natural environment. There is no need to bait sharks, stage orchestrated shark feeds or place divers in shark cages. As a veteran Palauan dive guide says “every week is shark week in Palau!” and it’s true. Divers and snorkelers can encounter sharks on almost every outing all year round. While different times of the year bring different behaviors among sharks, diving and snorkeling with sharks is an experience to be enjoyed year round in Palau.

And “shark diving” is not just limited to dive trips or snorkel trips. Kayakers participating in tours with Planet Blue Sea Kayak Tours may enjoy unique opportunities to visit shark nurseries in the inner lagoon areas where baby black tip sharks hide out until mature enough to take their place on the outer reef.

Even those enjoying helicopter rides with “Matt the Pilot” over at Palau Helicopters are often treated to shark sightings. In fact, Matt most recently reported sightings of baby hammerhead sharks within the lagoon which were heretofore almost unknown. Bottom line, there are few better places than Palau for exciting up close shark encounters whether you’re a diver, a snorkeler or simply enjoying a birds eye view of Palau from the air.

What better place then than Palau to get up close and personal with sharks and learn about their critical role in the marine environment, understand their life cycle, witness their importance to Palau’s fledgling tourism industry, and learn about the unprecedented destruction in a matter of a few short years of a creature that has otherwise survived unchanged for millions of years? Why limit shark awareness to a once a year Shark Week when in fact every week is Shark Week in Palau?

As a member of the International Year of The Shark and a long standing supporter of shark conservation in Palau, Sam’s Tours is therefore proud to launch SHARK WEEKS with a year long S.A.V.E. our SHARKS (Shark Awareness Visitor Education) program.

Throughout Shark Weeks guests will enjoy shark awareness and shark education interpretive briefings that will enhance their shark encounters in Palau and hopefully encourage them to join the fight to protect sharks worldwide. SAVE our SHARKS certificates will be presented to those who complete the program and they will be listed in the Palau Shark Sanctuary Shark Savers Registry.

Throughout 2009, Sam’s Tours will also conduct Shark Byte, a year long free competition for Sam’s Tours guests in search of the best digital image of a shark taken in Palau. Starting February 1, 2009, and every week until the end of the International Year of the Shark 2009, we will select a winning image for Shark Byte of the week from entries received that week. Winners of Shark Byte of the Week will receive a Palau Shark Sanctuary T-shirt and have their image posted on-line. Weekly winners will automatically be entered in Shark Byte of the Year, with the results of the competition to be announced at the close of the International Year of the Shark.

The Grand Prize for the Winner of Sam’s Tours Shark Byte includes:
Round Trip Airfare from Manila to Palau
7 Nights Hotel Accommodation
5 Days of Diving (or other tour of the winners choice)

To reserve your place or more information on Shark Weeks, please visit:

http://www.sharkweeks.com/ or contact: RESERVATIONS@SAMSTOURS.COM

Other informative links:


Saturday, January 10, 2009

WWW.SHARKSANCTUARY.COM finally launched!

Koror, Palau

January 10, 2009


I'm happy to announce that my new (and first) website for the Palau Shark Sanctuary is finally launched. While there are still some edits and revisions required, the basic site is up and running. The URL is: http://www.sharksanctuary.com/

Additionally, my BLOG located at: http://www.sharksanctuary.blogspot.com/ will soon be linked to the new site.

I'm deeply indebted to my good friend, fellow environmentalist and amazing photographer Gunther Deichmann who sponsored and created the site in support of the International Year of the Shark 2009. Gunther was instrumental in helping me get the Shark Sanctuary off the ground back in 2001 and has been and ardent supporter ever since. Many thanks Gunther and Webmaster Arnold Munoz. I sincerely appreciate your support.

Check out Gunther's Blog at: http://www.deichmann-photo.com/blog.html

I also owe considerable thanks to Mr. Dennis Camblin of Logo Pacific, Hawaii who has supported me from day one and launched the Palau Shark Sanctuary line of logo clothing which has helped fund my efforts since 2001. Thanks Dennis!

Thanks also to Sam's Tours and Ben Franklin Department Store who are corporate sponsors of Palau Shark Sanctuary and sell Shark Sanctuary logo clothing in support of the efforts to end shark-finning in Palau and elsewhere.

Sam's Tours: http://www.samstours.com

Please pay a visit to http://www.sharksanctuary.com/ and link to: http://www.sharksanctuary.blogspot.com/ for the latest news on sharks and shark conservation efforts in Palau.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Announcing International Year of The Shark 2009

Palau Shark Sanctuary is proud to announce its' membership in The International Year of The Shark 2009 and joins the efforts to bring an end to the unprecedented killing off of shark populations around the world.

The International Year of The Shark initiative was launched by the LET SHARKS LIVE network whose members were so alarmed by the announcement in The Global Shark Assessment that "at the current rates of decline, extinction is indicated for a high fraction of oceanic shark species, in ten to fifteen years." In response to this very disturbing news, Let Sharks Live declared 2009 International Year of The Shark in an emergency effort to halt the unsustainable killing of sharks before it’s too late.

For more information on International Year of The Shark please visit: http://www.year-of-the-shark-2009.org/

For information on Palau Shark Sanctuary, please visit: http://www.sharksanctuary.com/