Palau President Supports Total Ban On Commercial Fishing

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Remengesau aims for largest marine reserve in the world

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, March 14, 2013) – President Tommy Remengesau Jr. has announced that he will propose a legislation that would ban all commercial fishing within Palau’s 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

The president made this announcement when he welcomed Prince Albert II of Monaco and his delegation Monday.

Remengesau aims to make Palau waters the largest marine reserve in the world and set an example in marine conservation for the global community to follow.

This initiative would make Palau the first country in the world to ban all commercial fishing within its territorial waters.

The president requested the partnership of Prince Albert II to work together in this effort to achieve this unprecedented policy.

Remengesau said that the revenue received from commercial fishing licenses and taxes from commercial fishing is a "drop in the bucket" compared to the profits made by large fishing companies and he will seek support to find other sources of revenue to replace the money lost if the ban is implemented.

Based on the latest financial reports from the Ministry of Finance, projected revenue from fishing rights licenses in Fiscal Year 2013 is $327,000.

"An Exclusive Economic Zone-wide no commercial fishing zone would mean that only sustenance fishing by Palauan residents, and tourism-related sport catch and release fishing would be permitted," Remengesau explained.

Palau has made news before in environmental protection when the government passed legislation to make the entire country a "Shark Sanctuary" by banning all shark fishing in its waters.

"Our vision is for an area that is so well protected that Palau becomes the world’s largest marine sanctuary. No longer will Palau be merely a shark sanctuary; it will be a sea sanctuary that protects all marine wildlife within Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

The president said this initiative will not be easy as the revenue lost from fishing licenses and potentially foreign assistance from countries allowed to fish in Palau will have to be replaced.

According to the president, Palau currently receives a few million dollars per year in revenue from foreign fishing agreements.

"Palau must find a way to recover this revenue before this policy can be pursued in order for Palau to survive. Some of that revenue will be recovered simply through the increase in tourism that results from the incredible marine biodiversity that will be protected by our Sea Sanctuary," the president said.

The president anticipates that enforcement will also be an issue. Currently, Palau has one marine patrol boat responsible for covering the entire EEZ and the patrol boat often encounters foreign vessels illegally fishing in its waters.

Remengesau said that he is working on efforts to increase the surveillance capacity of the patrol team by building a fuel depot on one of the Southwest Islands so the patrol boat doesn’t have to come back to the main islands for refueling.

Remengesau expressed that the only way that conservation initiatives such as the Shark Sanctuary and the proposed ban on commercial fishing will work is if environmentally concerned countries like Monaco and Palau work together to protect their natural resources.

"This is a challenge that is no larger or smaller, or of any less importance than that which Prince Albert faced when he decided to spearhead efforts to place the Northern Bluefin Tuna on the endangered species list of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Prince Albert’s presence here is a testament to Palau’s conservation efforts. My hope is that just as the name Prince Albert II has become synonymous with environmental conservation across the world, so shall the country of Palau," Remengesau said.

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