12 Illegal Fishing Devices Discovered In Palauan Waters

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Authorities, Greenpeace conduct joint patrol over 3 weeks

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Nov. 26, 2012) – At least 12 fish aggregating devices (FAD) were reportedly found in Palau waters and were destroyed by Greenpeace International, with an officer from Marine Law Enforcement Division, during a three-week joint patrol on the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Greenpeace’s ship Esperanza docked at Malakal Harbor on Saturday after the three-week patrol and briefed local leaders led by President Toribiong about their operation.

Officer Earl Benhart of the Division of Marine Law Enforcement was onboard Esperanza in patrolling Palau waters.

In the briefing, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner Farah Obaidullah disclosed that they have destroyed the illegal FADs found in Palau by sinking them.

FADs are man-made objects that float and used by big fishing companies to attract fish. Over 300 species of fish reportedly aggregate around FADs in the open ocean around the world. Fish tend to move around the FADs in orbits of differing dimensions.

Obaidullah said that Greenpeace will seek a ban on the use of FADs in purse seine fisheries at the upcoming meeting of the Western and WCPFC in Manila, Philippines from December 2-7.

The use of FADs can result in catches of juvenile tuna and other fishes. It is said that thousands of FADs are adrift in the waters of the western Pacific Ocean.

Benhart said that illegal fishing, including the use of FADs, is not only destroying the livelihood of the people in the Pacific island countries but also sabotaging the beautiful oceans.

Greenpeace is against the use of FADs as these entice fish, including the already vulnerable juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tunas, sharks and other marine life, to congregate in a single location to be scooped by purse seine nets.

With a FAD, large-scale tuna purse seiners can reportedly catch in two days what it would take local fishermen an entire year to catch. Greenpeace disclosed that in 2010 the industry hauled over 2.4 million metric tons of tuna, among which, 75% came from purse seine vessels, often using FADs.

Obaidullah said that the use of FADs in purse seine fishing is devastating tuna and other marine species. She finds it outrageous to see FADs placed in the EEZ of Palau, where they are not allowed without specific authorization.

"We cannot imagine how many FADs there might be in the high seas, where few restrictions apply. If we want to see our tuna stock survive, we must ban FADs right now, not only in Palau, but also everywhere in the western and central Pacific Ocean," Obaidullah said.

Obaidullah said that the Pacific is the source of 70% of the world’s tuna, providing coastal communities not only with food but also economic prosperity. She added that scientists currently estimate that bigeye tuna is overfished in the Pacific, and yellowfin is on the brink of overfishing in the main fishing grounds.

Aside from calling for a ban on the use of FADs, Obaidullah said Greenpeace will also call for a 50 percent reduction in the catch of bigeye tuna and declare high seas pockets known as the Pacific Commons to be off limits to fishing.

President Toribiong thanked Greenpeace International for working with Palau and helping authorities here in patrolling the country’s exclusive economic zone.

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