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


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