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: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
HELP SAVE PALAU’S SHARKS!