Friday, April 3, 2009

Palau's Shark Shame - Tourism Blowback

RTSea's Blog summed up the recent shark conservation policy shift in Palau. As always they distilled this issue down to what matters and why:

Palau has been a favorite dive tourist destination for many years because of its wonderful reefs and bountiful fishlife. And the island has, in the past, taken active steps to protect its shark populations with aggressive action against illegal shark finning operations. All of these efforts have contributed to the island's tourist economy and sound conservation policy.

But that all could potentially be undone with recent legislation that was introduced to both allow for commercial shark fishing and allow for the use of purse seining - a method that brings in a large amount of by-catch. Palau commercial fishing interests have been working with Philippine fishing groups and the combined influence on Palau legislators has produced SB8-44 (which drops the ban on shark fishing) and SB8-50 (which drops an export tax on fish caught by purse seining).

According to FinsMagazine, the collective result of the laws would be:
  • To permit and encourage the killing of sharks in Palau’s waters
  • To promote shark finning
  • To promote fishing methods that according to Monterey Bay Aquarium “result in large amounts of unintended catch” including sharks, dolphins, turtles, rays and juveniles:
  • To exempt fishing companies from any export taxes on fish taken from Palau’s waters
  • To make it practically impossible for Palau’s law enforcement personnel to successfully prosecute alleged violators in the courts
  • To risk destroying Palau’s sustainable tourism industry
  • To risk destroying Palau’s marine resources through unsustainable practices
  • To gamble on all of the above for no apparent gain to Palau or Palauans.
This issue has made the rounds of several shark blogs recently, but opinions from everyone - from divers to land-bound ocean advocates - are needed to remind the Palau government that the negative impact on tourism and the island's marine ecology will ultimately outweigh the short-term gains in a working relationship with Philippine commercial fisheries.

Email to make your voice heard:

Palau Chamber of Commerce (
Belau Tourism Association (
Palau Visitors Authority ( .

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