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Boat intercepted within country’s shark sanctuary

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 16, 2012) – The operators of a Taiwanese fishing vessel will pay the Palau government a $US65,000 fine for illegal shark fishing.

The vessel and its captain will also be banned from fishing in Palauan waters for a year.

Palau President Johnson Toribiong says the fine will be used to strengthen his country's ability to monitor its waters for illegal fishing activity.

"This judgment should be seen as a deterrent to foreign fishers," he said. "The Palau Government is committed to protect the people of Palau, as without fish there is no future for our people"

Palau's fisheries officials intercepted the vessel in Palau's shark sanctuary in December.

The environmental group Greenpeace had spotted the vessel by helicopter during a joint patrol with Palau authorities.

Palau's Justice Minister, John C. Gibbons, says the country does not want the expense of jailing illegal fishers, but could look at increased fines if the practice continues.

"We feel that shark is an important part of our ecosystem in the world's waters and we need to do our part in preserving sharks," he said.

"We're just now beginning to do our part and this is the first instance where we've had to take action on it, and hopefully we're sending a message. But if not, if this keeps happening, we're just might have to do more serious fines.

Palau set up the shark sanctuary in 2009 to protect more than 130 species from extinction.

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