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President Tommy Remengesau stressed his country has become a leader in marine conservation. (Photo: James P. McVey NOAA Sea Grant Program/FIS)

President proposes banning all commercial fishing

Monday, March 18, 2013, 23:30 (GMT + 9)

Palau President Tommy Remengesau would like to turn his country’s territorial waters into one of the planet’s biggest marine reserves -- stretching almost 630,000 sqkm, about the size of France -- by banning all commercial fishing there.

Elected in November 2012, he noted that Palau generated revenue from tourism, not by allowing foreign countries to send in their vessels to fish in its waters.

Remengesau also highlighted that since creating the world's first shark sanctuary in 2009, his country has been considered a leader in marine conservation, AFP/PacNews reports.

“Our vision is for an area that is so well protected that Palau becomes the world's largest marine sanctuary,” he said. “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 (EEZ).”

Enforcing a ban would be tricky because Palau has only one ageing patrol boat, but Remengesau was confident that it could be done.

Natural Resources Minister Umiich Sengebau gave specifics, detailing that Palau made only about USD 5 million a year from fishing, with about USD 4 million coming from tuna fishing, which is dominated by Japanese and Taiwanese vessels.

“The president feels that Palau is shortchanged,” Sengebau said, Spasifik reports.

He stated that the country had licensed 129 foreign fishing vessels in 2010 but that Pacific island nations got only a fraction of the income generated by the tuna fished in their EEZs.

The Asian Development Bank estimated the global tuna industry to be worth USD 4 billion a year, Remengesau said, and only 9 per cent of this sum went to Pacific nations where most of the tuna are actually captured.

“Revenue received from commercial fishing licences and taxes from commercial fishing is a drop in the bucket compared to the profits made by large fishing companies,” he stated. “An EEZ-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.”

Still, he noted that the proposal is in its early stages and that the government will consider other revenue sources, such as tourism, before implementing it.

“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,” he added.

By Natalia Real


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