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!