New changes coming to Palau’s national marine sanctuary law

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Photo of the proposed area of the new domestic fishing zone of Palau. Photo courtesy of Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC).

Proposed amendments to the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act (PNMS) to lift the export ban on pelagic fish and create a corridor to the high seas as the new boundary for the 20 percent Domestic Fishing Zone (DFZ) will be signed into law today (June 12).

The bill seeks to allow commercial exports of fish within the DFZ for its economic “vital revenue” from foreign fishing license fees and for Palau to also earn revenue from fish caught inside and exported from the domestic fishing zone.

It will also allow fish caught with long-line fishing to be exported commercially. In the current PNMS law, the DFZ only allows exports of fish caught by free school purse-seining.

The amendments also redefined the new boundaries of the domestic fishing zone have been reoriented splitting the adjacent 80% of the PNMS and allowing a corridor extending into the high seas.

The high seas corridor, the lawmakers said will allow local fishermen to have access to the fish. 

The corridor – boundaries start at 24-miles from the baseline where the exclusive economic zone is measured and encircles Ngeruangel, Kayangel, Babeldaob, Koror, Peleliu, Angaur and stretches outward from points to the north of Ngeruangel and the south of Angaur into the high seas in the west.

The bill further proposes to allow long-line fishing activity within the domestic fishing zone.

Senate Bill No. 10-157, SD1 has been transmitted to the House of Delegates after the Senate approval on June 3.

Expedited approval by the House of Delegates, and hence OEK passage, is expected as the amendments were the result of consultations between the president’s office and both OEK houses.

The lawmakers are seeking to allow commercial exports of fish within the DFZ for its economic “vital revenue” from foreign fishing license fees and for Palau to also earn revenue from fish caught inside and exported from the domestic fishing zone.

It will allow fish caught with long-line fishing to be exported commercially. Currently, the domestic fishing zone allows exports only on free school purse-seining.

The new boundaries of the domestic fishing zone have been reoriented splitting the contiguous 80% of the PNMS no-take zone and allowing a corridor extending into the high seas. The corridor – boundaries start at 24-miles from the baseline where the exclusive economic zone is measured and encircles Ngeruangel, Kayangel, Babeldaob, Koror, Peleliu, Angaur and stretches outward from points to the north of Ngeruangel and the south of Angaur into the high seas in the west.

The 80 percent of Palau’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) will still be a no-take zone but the designated domestic fishing zone will not be economically viable if it prohibits exports of the fish caught in the area.

The 24-mile baseline, meanwhile it will also allow the pole-and-line fishing operations to fish much closer to home instead of moving beyond the 50-mile radius.

The government said the amendments also in consultation with Japan who has made a request on behalf of small scale fishermen from Okinawa who traditionally fish down south into Palau’s exclusive economic zones.

All fish caught in the zone will have to be landed on Palau, but the fisheries minister can give exemptions to landing obligations.

The expected changes to the law are being introduced before the PNMS takes effect on January 1, 2020.

PNA member countries will now have access to Tokelau’s waters

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Photo: Francisco Blaha.

Tokelau and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) member countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at last week’s meeting of PNA Ministers in Palau that allows the South Pacific territory to join the FSM Arrangement(FSMA), an agreement which allows parties domestic vessels who are licensed under the arrangement,  to access the fishing resources of other parties.

Tokelau is the latest participants, joining other signatories (Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau,  Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands).

Under the MOU, a framework for the participation of Tokelau in the FSMA will be established. The arrangement also enables holders of Regional Access Licenses under the FSMA to fish in Tokelau’s exclusive economic zone and it also ensures license holders fishing in Tokelau fisheries waters complies with applicable national laws of Tokelau.

Tokelau will allow all purse seine vessels licensed to fish in the Arrangement Area under the FSMA to access its exclusive economic zone.

As a participant to the FSMA, Tokelau may participate in the Annual Meeting and any Special Meeting of the Parties to the FSMA and may participate in the decision making but Tokelau will have no voting right in the process.

 The arrangement will take effect on July 1, 2019.

PNA CEO Ludwig Komoru said the signing of the MOU with Tokelau is a “very important step” which means in that the countries in the FSMA arrangement can now go to Tokelau waters to fish.” Giving both Tokelau and PNA countries “extra area to fish and extra revenues, so it’s a win-win.”

Tokelau is made up of three small coral atolls – Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu.

Tokelau has an  EEZ covering 318,990 square kilometers.

Tokelau does not have a commercial fishing fleet however, it has a large artisanal fleet of about 50 – 60 small 12’ to 16’ ft. motorized aluminum boats.

In 2012, Tokelau joined the PNA’s vessel day scheme, the country’s main industry is fishing.

On May 29-30, 2019, Fisheries Ministers from PNA convened in  Koror, Palau for their 14th annual meeting.

During the meeting, fisheries ministers also considered several important issues at this meeting, such as the PNA Office budget, PNA’s Strategic Plan, the 2020 Party Allowable Effort (PAE), an independent Chair for the PNA Compliance Committee, the purchase of Fisheries Information Management System (FIMS) from Quick Access, high seas bunkering, Vanuatu’s request to join PNA’s Longline (LL) Vessel Day Scheme (VDS),  

Tokelau is also a participant at these meetings as a party to the Palau Arrangement (PA), which is the management arrangement for the purse seine fishery.  

Trump administration to work together with Palau, FSM, and RMI to combat IUU fishing

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Donald Trump poses with the presidents of Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States. Photo by US Department of Interior.

The United States, Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia have made commitments to work together to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU).

In a historic meeting with US President Donald Trump on May 21st, Presidents of the Marshall Islands, Hilda Heine, FSM ‘s David Panuelo and Palau’s Tommy Remengesau Jr., the four nations agreed that one of the region’s most pressing issue is IUU.

In a joint statement following the meeting the leaders stated, “we resolve to continue develop joint initiatives, both bilaterally and through multilateral forums, such as the Pacific Islands Forum, to tackle the region’s most pressing issues, including responding to natural disasters; combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; advancing economic development; strengthening the rule of law; and supporting the resiliency of the Pacific islands environment.”

President Heine said during the talks in Washington that her country deals with illegal ship entries, supposedly for fishing all the time.

Aa press briefing by US administration officials on May 20 said illegal fishing is one of the security concerns in the Pacific region.

“President Trump is really looking forward to discussing our shared security concerns, and that includes things like countering illegal and unregulated and underreported fishing; it includes addressing transnational crime and trafficking; and of course, the protection of all the nation’s sovereignty as part of the free and open Indo-Pacific,” the officials told reporters.

Although the joint statement between Trump and the FAS leaders did not mention climate change, officials said that the US will be assisting all the Pacific Island nations in strengthening their resilience against natural disasters, rising sea levels, soil erosion, invasive species, and more.”

US Acting Secretary of Defence, Patrick Shanahan, in his meeting with the leaders reiterated the United States commitment to “working with you to address common security challenges such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.”

A report on the impact of IUU fishing prepared for the Forum Fisheries Agency in 2016 catch associated with illegal fishing is valued over $US600 million annually, with the direct economic loss to FFA members of around US$150 million.

Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) CEO Ludwig Kumoru last year said eliminating IUU fishing is a core part of the fisheries management work.

 “Working together to eliminate IUU will enhance sustainable and economically viable fisheries for the benefit of everyone,” he said.

The FFA and PNA are calling for the support of Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs), to eliminate IUU fishing.

“We want them on board and to understand this is a collective effort of the FFA and PNA to implement a best practice strategy to effectively track and hold offenders accountable,” said Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director General of the FFA.

In February this year, Micronesian nations that include Palau, RMI and FSM committed to uniting to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) in the Pacific by 2023. in the Pacific.

At the 19th Micronesia Presidents’ Summit on 21 February, Palau, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Nauru signed a communique supporting an IUU Free Pacific by 2023 – a challenge was set up by RMI.

“It is important to build on the momentum we have at the national and regional level to combat IUU and to give it a goal or a target if you will. Imagine an IUU Free Pacific by 2023,” RMI President Hilda Heine said during the summit in Palau.

Palau targets tuna for food security

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Palau’s president is calling for more domestic consumption of tuna. Tuna caught in Palau being offloaded. (Photo: Richard Brooks)

Palau is highlighting the importance of tuna to local food security and to help keep the pressure off its coastal fisheries.

On May 1, President Tommy Remengesau Jr. signed a presidential directive calling for a “national commitment to reduce pressure on the reef, promote locally produced foods, prioritise human wellness and healthful nutrition”.

This is to be done by supporting a local pelagic fishery by serving pelagic fish like tuna at all government food service systems and at government and quasi-government events and functions.

In this tiny Pacific nation, where non-communicable diseases are high and gravely impact the health of the people, Remengesau said there is a need to enable the domestic market to increase local access to fish to improve nutrition.

The president said Palau is experiencing high rates of obesity (46.2%), overweight (30.8%), raised total cholesterol (25.8%), diabetes (20.4%), and other non-communicable diseases because of the preference to  consume imported meats and canned foods that are “cheap and nutritionally poor.”

He said tuna will help fill in the gap for a need to go back to traditional foods such as root crops and fish.

Reef fish in Palau is on the brink of being overfished and since studies have shown that tuna and tuna-like pelagic fish species are more resilient to fishing pressure due to their higher productivity and more extensive stocks, his government will set an example by choosing pelagics.

“Tuna means livelihood, economic security for Palau. We want to eat high-grade tuna and not rejects,” Remengesau said. 

Palau is sustaining key tuna species by closing almost 500,000 square kilometres of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to commercial fishing while increasing the amount of tuna allocated to consumption on the island.

Twenty percent of the EEZ is designated as a domestic fishing zone. Remengesau said Palau do not want to be left with tuna of lesser value but consume fish of higher-grade value.

The directive supports the local organisation, Palau Conservation Society’s (PCS) program ‘Choose Pelagics,’ which the president said is “a collaborative and cross-sectoral effort aimed at creating incentives to promote the development of a sustainable domestic pelagic fishery.”

Fabio Siksei, Program Coordinator of the PCS’ conservation and protected areas program said that based on their monitoring, restaurants in Palau mostly serve reef fish

“We try to create a market shift, try to shift that to pelagic,” Siksei said in an interview.

The program along with the Bureau of Marine Resources ongoing nationwide program for anchored fishing aggregating device (FADs) is supporting the artisan fisheries and addressing challenges faced by small scale fishermen.

“Palau continues to work with its local, regional, and international partners to develop alternative pelagic fisheries to support fishing livelihoods and food security through the expansion of a nationwide anchored FADs Network to help improve the feasibility of small-scale pelagic fishing,” Remengesau stated.

Last year, a study conducted by Nippon Foundation-UBC Nereus Program already brought to light the pressure that reefs are already experiencing. The study suggested that Palauans and tourists should eat fewer reef fish and recommended a policy that would  require reductions in fish consumption by both resident Palauans and visitors.

The study suggested that there should be a shift from “seafood consumption to open water fish, such as sustainably-harvested tuna, instead of reef fishes such as grouper, snapper, and parrotfish.”

ADB launches USD$5 billion action plan to protect oceans

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The Pacific Ocean will benefit from the ADB Plan to protect oceans (Photo: Fransisco Blaha)

Nadi- The Asian Development Bank on May 2 launched a USD$5 billion dollar action plan aimed at protecting the ocean, which includes efforts for an inclusive livelihood sustainable business opportunities in the fisheries industry.

The Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies, announced during the annual meeting of its board of governors, expands financing and technical assistance for ocean health and marine economy projects to $5 billion from 2019 to 2024.

The action plan is also aimed at protecting and restoring coastal and marine ecosystems and key rivers; reducing land-based sources of marine pollution, including plastics, wastewater, and agricultural runoff; and improving sustainability in port and coastal infrastructure development.

ADB President Takehiko Nakao highlighted the importance of protecting marine ecosystems.  

“Healthy oceans are essential to our planet and for the millions of people in Asia and the Pacific, especially those who depend on oceans for their food and livelihoods,” Nakao said during the opening session of the board of governors meeting, May 3   

He said the oceans are in danger from increasing water temperatures, untreated wastewater and plastic pollution, and unsustainable fishing practices.

Nakao fears that if no action is taken against the damages in the ocean, by 2050, 90% of “the region’s coral reefs will be dead, and there will be no commercially exploitable wild fish stocks left.”

The action plan will also boost the blue economy, which provides USD 3.3 billion to the national economies of Pacific countries and territories.  

In line with the action plan, the organisation will launch the Oceans Financing Initiatives that will give opportunities for the private sector to invest in projects that will help improve ocean health.

The initiative will provide technical assistance grants and funding from ADB and other donors to reduce the technical and financial risks of projects. This will be done through instruments such as credit risk guarantees and capital market “blue bonds”.

Palau preparation to host 2020 Our Ocean Conference underway

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Credit: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Palau’s preparation to host the 2020 edition of the Our Oceans conference is underway. The conference will be a gathering of leaders to commit to actions related to sustainable fisheries marine protected areas, climate change, marine pollution, sustainable blue economy, and maritime security.

In hosting next year’s conference, the Republic of Palau will serve as the venue where experts, stakeholders, innovators, and entrepreneurs share the stage with global leaders in ocean conservation.

Palau President, Tommy Remengesau Jr. said in his State of the Republic Address (SORA) on April 25 that the hosting of 7th Our Ocean Conference on August 2020, “will be one of the largest events held in the region attracting high level government officials to major corporations and civil service organizations from around the world.”

Once the Palau National Marine Sanctuary law takes effect, commercial fishing on over 500,000 square kilometers or 80 percent of its maritime waters will be prohibited.

The remaining 20 percent of Palau’s seas will be reserved for domestic fishing.      

Rememegsau said that at the last conference held in Bali, Indonesia there were 305 tangible and measurable commitments amounting to USD$10.7 billion and comprising of 14 million square kilometres of Marine Protected Areas around the globe.

To help Palau host the event, over 900 commitments have been pledged by governments, NGOs, corporations, United Nations entities, academia, the scientific community, philanthropic organisations, individuals, and many others to address the plight of the world’s oceans. Together, they represent more than $28 billion in funding, technical and in-kind contributions, according to a briefing by the Our Oceans Committee in Palau to the members of Congress and the Executive Branch.

In a statement, the committee said, funding commitments have been from allied partners for the necessary infrastructure for the conference.

“The Our Ocean 2020 Conference will convene leaders from major countries and organisations who are global ocean champions to discuss and take action on issues and solutions…,” the Committee said in its update presentation.

Remengesau said Our Ocean Conference 2020 will focus on actions and results of prior commitments to protect the oceans.

He said that it is events “such as these with the aim of showcasing how such commitments have been translated into actions, that improve and enhance the lives of people in their respective countries.”

Japan pledges to help Palau’s maritime security

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Japan has pledged US$3.6 million in aid to strengthen Palau’s maritime security and fisheries.

Last month in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met President Tommy Remengesau Jr. and reiterated Japan’s continued cooperation with Palau for a“free-and-open Indo Pacific”, including maritime security and connectivity.

Both leaders attended the signing ceremony on grant aid, which includes the provision of motorboats and floating markers as assistance towards the fields of maritime security and fishery.

During the visit both leaders also confirmed their continued cooperating on the recovery of the remains of the war dead, the stable operation of the Japanese fishing vessels, and people-to-people exchanges including those of young generations.

Japan has a pending request with Palau to allow small scale fishermen from Okinawa to fish in Palau’s waters, even after the implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) in 2020.

Remengesau, however, said the fishing should occur in the Domestic Fishing Zone which encompasses 85,896 square miles of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Eighty percent of the EEZ would be a “no-take zone.”

“We are not going to compromise the integrity of the PNMS,” he said. “However, we are mindful of the 20 percent domestic fishing zone, which is a big area.

During the meeting with Abe, both countries have agreed to further discuss the request.

Japan is one of Palau’s closest allies with  millions of aid provided to the country to build roads,  infrastructure and  recently a new patrol boat to help police Palau’s EEZ.

Japan has also  pledged support  to Palau’s hosting of the Our Oceans Conference in 2020.

Under the PNMS law, a dedicated 20 percent of the EEZ will be accessible to domestic fishing fleets. But the domestic fishing zone will be reserved for local fishermen and prohibit exports

The law also requires that any fish caught in the domestic fishing zone   should be offloaded in Palau.

Currently the fishermen from Okinawa conduct fishing outside the domestic area, which will be closed to commercial fishing when the PNMS law takes effect by January 1, 2020.

Taiwan, Palau forge coast guard cooperation

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Taiwan and Palau signed a coast guard cooperation agreement to help police the island nation’s conservation area and fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) and maritime crimes.

During the state banquet, March 22, hosted by the Palau government for President Tsai Ing-wen and her delegation, Taiwan announced that in line with the agreement, it is gifting  the island nation with a patrol boat to help stem maritime crime.

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. thanked Taiwan for continuing to be a “staunch partner” of Palau as it prepares to prohibit a huge part of its exclusive economic zone to commercial fishing by January 1, 2020.

“Tonight sees the handover of one of the most visible forms of this partnership through the new patrol boat for our coast guard. As our friends from Taiwan know all too well, as island states, securing our ocean spaces is vital to allow our respective national projects to flourish,” Remenegsau stated.

 Vice President Raynold Oilouch and Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu signed the agreement.  Foreign Minister Wu also presented two miniature model patrol boats to Vice President Oilouch as a gift.

President Tsai praised Palau as a tourist destination and vowed Taiwan would continue to work with the country in various fields including marine conservation.

Tsai said Palau and Taiwan’s relationship: “show that oceans do not separate us, but bind us together.”

Under the agreement, Taiwan and Palau “agree to seek feasibility of cooperation in the following: exchange of personnel visiting; exchange of personnel for training; Maritime Search and Rescue; Fisheries Law enforcement; and cooperation in combating transnational crime;

Taiwan has also donated a total of $1 million to the marine sanctuary fund, a pledge it made in 2015 when the legislation was signed. 

Remengesau said the new patrol boat: “will augment our marine capabilities, strengthen our security, and be a vital tool in ensuring that the Sanctuary contributes to our sustainable development.”

Palau students currently on scholarships at the Taiwan Naval Academy would join the patrol boat crew when it’s officially delivered, Remengesau said

The Taiwanese naval patrol frigate Hsun Hu No. 7 took part in joint exercises with Palau’s Coast Guard on March  23.

By January 1, 2020, Palau is prohibiting all commercial fishing in 80 percent of its EEZ while 20 percent will be designated as domestic fishing zone to improve the nation’s food security.

Fishing nations that largely conduct commercial fishing in Palau are from Japan and Taiwan.

 The Taiwan Embassy here said that presently Taiwan has 42 fishing boats operating in Palau waters which provide an “annual contribution to fishing related incomes in Palau exceeds USD 6.9 million.”

“Their future operations will be affected by the coming implementation of  PNMS in 2020,” it stated.

Although Taiwan embassy said it supports the implementation of the marine sanctuary, it hopes to “bridge a solution that can be accepted by both the ROP Government and Taiwan fishing operators.”

The embassy said Taiwan fishing operators wish to continue fishing in Palau waters, and “unload their catch in Palau; and Palau can continue to enjoy the economic benefits.”

Micronesian leaders unite to combat IUU fishing by 2023

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Micronesian nations are uniting to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) by 2023 in the Pacific.

At the 19th Micronesia Presidents’ Summit on 21 February, Palau, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Nauru signed a communique supporting a IUU Free Pacific by 2023. This challenge was set up by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).

“It is important to build on the momentum we have at the national and regional level to combat IUU and to give it a goal or a target if you will. Imagine an IUU Free Pacific by 2023,” RMI President Hilda Heine said during the summit in Palau.

“The Marshall Islands seeks your endorsement of this vision and goal, to have Micronesian Leaders support an IUU FREE Pacific by 2023 as an outcome of this important meeting.”

In October at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s Technical and Compliance Committee meeting in Majuro, Marshall Islands President Heine called on Pacific nations to agree to get rid of IUU fishing by 2023.

She urged the leaders of the Micronesian countries to make the same commitments to join the fight against IUU.

Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said the Micronesian region might be small but it comprises large ocean states which makes it all the more important to band together to deal with environmental degradation, including illegal fishing.

“My friends, I like to refer to our nations as the Large Ocean States. With this title comes great responsibility. Not only must we exploit our marine resources for the benefit of our people, we must protect them for our children and for the world at large,” Remengesau said when he welcomed the leaders in the February Summit.

“We must, therefore, continue to lead the world in creative responses to the environmental degradation that faces our Pacific Ocean through pollution, climate change, over-fishing, illegal fishing and the like. Together we must move forward with initiatives that prevent IUU fishing, that expand our protected areas and places limitations on pollution at every level.”

The Forum Fisheries Agency, in 2016, estimated fish either harvested or transshipped illegally in the Pacific region to be in the order of $600 million with the actual economic loss to FFA Members being around $150 million annually.

Heine, the RMI President, said IUU brings a broader scale of challenges that includes transnational crime, human rights and labour standards, pollution, and marine debris.

In the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Hawaii last year, the resolution on fishing vessel crew labour standards was adopted.

Led by Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members, with the support of members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), the resolution is in line with the goal of FFA members to enhance economic benefits to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from employment on board fishing vessels licensed to fish in the exclusive economic zones of FFA members.

Heine said the RMI is working closely with the FFA Secretariat in convening an IUU Colloquium in Majuro before the end of the year.

“The target audience will include National Compliance Officers, to our Fishing partners, both flag states and distant water fishing operators,” said Heine.

She added that with development partners, RMI continues to tap into emerging technology to meet the challenges such as the Persons of Interest project to ensure that “we are not so vessel focused in the way we combat IUU fishing; that we are not just collecting information on vessels’ compliance history but more importantly, we’re also collecting information on persons involved in illegal fishing and sharing this information.”

Palau Senate wants to delay marine sanctuary implementation

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Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. is not shutting down the request from the Japanese government to allow small scale fishermen from Okinawa to fish in Palau’s waters even after the implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) beyond 2020.

However, Remengesau said fishing should occur in the Domestic Fishing Zone which encompasses 85,896 square miles of the country’s  Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with 80 percent of the EEZ a “no-take zone.”

“We are not going to compromise the integrity of the PNMS,” He said.  “We are however mindful of the 20 per cent domestic fishing zone, which is a big area.”

Japan is one of Palau’s closest ally with  millions of aid provided to the country to build roads,  infrastructure and  recently a new patrol boat to help police Palau’s EEZ.

Japan has also  pledged support for Palau’s hosting of the Our Oceans Conference in 2020.

Under the PNMS law, a dedicated 20 per cent of the EEZ will be accessible to domestic fishing fleets. But the domestic fishing zone will be reserved for local fishermen and will prohibit exports. The law also required that any fish caught in the domestic fishing zone should be offloaded in Palau. 

Currently, the fishermen from Okinawa conduct fishing outside the 20 per cent Domestic Fishing Zone. 

However, Remengesau is keen to accommodate the fishermen alluding to the possibility of amendments to the PNMS law specifically about the provision that requires that all catches should be offloaded in Palau.  

“It’s about the livelihood of their people, its not a commercial operation; the question is can we do a win win situation? I think we can,” he told reporters. Japan also has the backing of the Senate which recently passed a joint resolution supporting  the wishes of the small-scale fishermen . 

(Photo: Richard W. Brooks)

Senate Joint Resolution 10-45 supports the Government of Japan’s request to allow vessels to continue its commercial fishing operation.

The Senate Committee on Resources, Commerce, Trade and Development stated in its report that Japan has assisted Palau in various infrastructure development and capacity building and that it should “reciprocate” by allowing some “fishing rights.” 

There is also a move from the Palau Senate to  delay Remengesau’s signature policy.   Sen. Frank Kyota, chair of the Senate Committee said  in an interview that his panel and several other senators will endorse the bill that seeks a delay of the PNMS implementation to 2025 instead of 2020

Kyota said extending the wind-down period would allow the country to recover from the tourism slump and increase revenues from the Pristine Paradise Environmental Fee (PPEF).  The fee is collected from visitors to Palau. 

A portion of the fee would go to the PNMS fund to support the implementation of the law.

But despite the tourism slowdown, Remengesau said it would hardly affect revenues it collects from foreign fishing licenses.

Remengesau said revenues that will be earned from the PPEF and the benefits to Palau from the Parties of Nauru Agreement’s (PNA) Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) are bigger than the income it could earn from licensing of commercial fishing in Palau.

“So it’s not so much an emergency impact if there will be no fishing because the money we receive from licensing  is a small amount compared to what we get from PPEF and also from what we receive from PNA,” Remengesau told reporters at apress conference .  

Based on the Ministry of Finance Financial report for the fourth quarter of 2018, Palau earned $8.4 million from fishing days under the PNA’s VDS while it earned only $767,417 from fish exports. Revenues collected from PPEF amounted to  $1,034,775.

 Enacted in October 2015, the law set aside 500,000 square kilometers or 80 per cent of its maritime waters for full protection with the rest set aside as domestic fishing zone.

With less than a year before it is implemented, the President vowed to reject  any attempt to delay the policy. 

However, Kyota said the Senate wants to pass the bill to generate discussions on how the tourism numbers will impact the PNMS funding mechanism.

Kyota said the Senate is not  “destroying the PNMS,”  with their push to delay the implementation but extending the wind-down period to give Palau time to recover from the tourism slump.

He noted that although he expects that the President will reject the bill, the Senate wants to be on record that it has tried to save the PNMS from losing revenues due to the tourism slowdown.

In a January 11 letter to the Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism Minister, Umiich Sengebau, Kyota’s committee raised concerns that revenues from the VDS will decrease as well when the PNMS is fully implemented.

 The committee said “since our economic frailty is an urgent matter,” the Senate needs to act on the proposed bill expeditiously.

 Sengebau in response to the committee’s concerns said there are locally-based fishing companies that are looking into the options of maintaining operations beyond the full implementation of the PNMS, such as fishing outside of Palau’s waters or at the high seas and offloading their catch here. 

The Minister also clarified that Palau can continue to earn money from the VDS through directly selling its vessel days directly to companies and any surplus days can be traded to another PNA member country.

The VDS sets an overall Total Allowable Effort (TAE) limit on the number of days fishing vessels can be licensed to fish in PNA Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) per year. Each country is allocated a share of the TAE for use in its zone each year.

These VDS days can be traded between countries in cases where a country has used up all its days while another has spare days.

The minimum benchmark for a vessel day fee for purse seiners is at $8,000.