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.
How Did We Get To This Point?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Part Two to Follow……..Stay Tuned!