While there continues to be every reason to be deeply concerned about the damage shark-finning by Palau’s licensed foreign fishing fleets and other illegally operating pirate fleets are having on Palau’s dwindling shark population, there is finally some positive news to report on Palau’s struggle to protect their ever shrinking marine resources, including sharks.
Palau’s Division of Marine Law Enforcement is now operating a Marine Observer Program that places trained fisheries observers on some of the licensed foreign fishing vessels operating out of Malakal Harbor, Koror, Palau. This is a small but very positive step in the right direction. The purpose of the marine observer program is to gather data about the fishing practices engaged in by licensed fishing vessels and to monitor compliance with the fishing treaties and or licensing agreements under which these vessels are permitted to operate in Palau’s waters. Data gathered by marine observers can be used to help develop and promote better fishing practices intended to reduce unintentional by-catch of sharks, turtles, billfish and other ocean dwellers that are often killed or injured during long-lining for tuna.
Marine Observer programs are not new and alone they may have little or no impact on poor or illegal fishing practices, but when combined with the support of law enforcement and the political will to protect marine resources they become an important window in to fishing industry practices and a valuable tool in holding the fishing industry more accountable for sustainable fishing practices.
I extend my hearty encouragement to Palau to expand the Marine Observer Program and I commend those Palauans in the Observer Program and in Law Enforcement who serve every day on the front lines in the never-ending battle to protect Palau’s resources from exploitation and illegal destruction. They are our eyes and ears and are to be commended. Thanks for your hard work.