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!

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