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:

Comments are also requested to be submitted to Palau Chamber of Commerce and Belau Tourism Association respectively at: and


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!



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: and

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:

Todd Essick:

Gunther Deichmann:

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 and Palau Chamber of Commerce 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
Let Sharks Live Think Tank Network
and from

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:
  • 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 ( and Belau Tourism Association ( and the government tourism office Palau Visitors Authority ( 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.