Palau must not open its waters to commercial shark fishing

Posted on April 8, 2009
Written by: Shark Savers
Tags: Shark Sanctuaries Campaign 

At a time that the Maldives is banning shark fishing and becoming a model for other nations, Palau is moving backward.

A bill is now moving through the legislative process in Palau that will significantly weaken its previously strong shark fishing laws. Previously, in hallmark legislation of 2004, shark fishing by foreign fisheries was made illegal and the shark finning law was as iron-clad as you can get.

A new Bill, SN-44, guts this legislation. The bill can be read in its entirety here:Palau S.B. No. 8-44 (Sharks).pdf 42.93 Kb 08/04/2009, 09:14

We have been speaking with sources in Palau to make sure we understood both the bill and the situation, there. The bill makes the following changes to Title 27 of the Palau National Code to allow for the commercial fishing of sharks within Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone:

It is unlawful for any person:

Current Law Proposed Changes
to use any foreign fishing vessel to fish, as that term is defined in 27 PNC Chapter 12, for any shark, or any part of any such, (eliminated)
or to remove the fins of or otherwise intentionally mutilate or injure any such shark. 
to remove the fins of or otherwise intentionally mutilate or injure any such shark.
If any shark is inadvertently caught or captured, it shall be immediately released, whether dead or alive; if the shark is caught or captured alive, it shall be released in the manner that affords it the greatest opportunity for survival. (eliminated)
  It shall be unlawful for any person to have on board a fishing vessel shark fins that total more than five percent of the weight of sharks on board.



What this means is as follows:

  1. Foreign fisheries are now barred from fishing for sharks in Palau. If the bill passes, they will be invited in with devastating impact to remaining shark populations.
  2. Sharks could not be caught before even 'inadvertantly', such as through by-catch. They would have been released. This unequivacal protection of sharks will be gone.
  3. Shark finning rules will be relaxed, adding the '5% of weight' rule just as other governments such as the United States are moving away from that because it is a loophole that a committed shark finner can more easily circumvent. The better way is to ensure that the fins must be kept attached to a caught shark.

Tourism is Palau's largest industry, representing 66% of GDP. Palau is an important destination for divers who know that sharks are protected, there. A few years of increased taxes from foreign vessels until the sharks are depleted cannot possibly add up to much when they put tourism and their marine ecosystem at risk.

We must let Palau know that we are aware of this bill and urge them to reject it. Please sign our petition and we will make sure your voice is heard.

Please sign our petition.