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.



  1. I think that the additional important information is: "Who is drafting these proposed Bills? and How do we contact them?"

  2. This is a huge mistake. Tourism is a much better long term solution for Palau than a short term deal trading a resource like sharks for dollars.

    Without a healthy eco-system why would people come to Palau?

  3. Dear Dermot,

    I want to thank you for alerting us to recent threats to the health of Palau's marine heritage.

    I work with Jean-Michel Cousteau and we are distressed to learn of legislation that may undermine the vitality of Palau's wonderful marine ecosystems. Having traveled the world making documentary films and studying the water system of the planet, we have seen many examples of how mismanagement of marine resources has imposed hardship on local people. Overfishing is one of the most destructive of human activities that affect coral reefs. It is well known that large predators have a top down effect as they keep populations of prey in check and as they stabilize critical ecological processes.

    Fishers generally seek the largest of fish and it is these large fish that are not only most important as predators but they are also the ones with the greatest reproductive potential. Thus it is these large fish that are the individuals that will be most effective in restoring depleted populations. This applies to both sharks and bony fish.

    Regarding shark finning, this is one of the most wasteful and inhumane of all fishing activities. Cutting off the fins of a living fish and then abandoning it to sink to the bottom of the sea to die of starvation is a barbarian act.

    We have seen tourism and incomes drop in places where marine resources have been destroyed for short-term profit. Future generations of Palau citizens deserve that their most valuable natural treasure, healthy marine ecosystems, will be sustainably managed for everyone's benefit.

    Because of this Jean-Michel Cousteau, his Ocean Futures Society and its members all urge rational and humanitarian management of Palau's valuable ocean heritage.


    Richard Murphy, Ph.D.
    Director, Science and Education
    Ocean Futures Society

  4. Thank you for letting the world know about this. I echo Jim's comment - at the moment the only info I have is a snail mail address:
    Senator Eledui,
    The OEK,
    The Capitol,
    Palau, PW 96940.

    Email addresses/phone numbers would be appreciated.