We began our blogging year with a series of startling conservation posts from the tiny island nation of Palau, highlighting worst case shark scenarios in the form of two senate fisheries bills:
SENATE BILL S-44 proposes:
“To amend Title 27 of the Palau National Code to allow for the commercial fishing of sharks within Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone, to impose a tax on the export of sharks and tuna-like species, and for other related purposes.”
SENATE BILL S-50 proposes:
“To exempt, for a period of five years, the export of tuna and tuna-like species caught using the group purse seining or handline fishing method from Palau’s fish export tax, to allow for an alternate transshipment port for fish caught using the group purse seining or handline fishing method, and for other related purposes.”
These two combined bills would have had a devastating effect on Palau's already struggling shark populations allowing unrestricted finning and catch for sharks.
What a difference a few months can make. This week in a stunning reversal and worthy of much praise for both leadership and political will Palau's President announced a universal 230,000 sq.mile Exclusive Economic Zone Shark Park in it's waters.
In terms of an immediate tourism booster the commercial shark diving world is thrilled to hear this news. As we have known for close to 20 years, shark are big, sustainable, business models that help local communities move from fishing to tourism.
Kudos to all the NGO's, local conservation agencies, and countless "others" who sent emails to Palau's government talking tourism and shark conservation. More Kudos to the government of Palau who made one of the boldest moves in the history of shark conservation, setting the bar past any and all regional expectations.
Let's go shark diving!
You can learn more at the Palau Shark Sanctuary web site and blog. To write congratulations to President Toribiong, the address is: Office of the President, P.O. Box 100, Koror, Palau 96940.