A young Palauan is taking part in the Pacifical internship program. Pacifical is a global tuna marketing company established by the tuna rich Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) countries.
Nineteen-year-old Olkeriil Eoghan Ngirudelsang won against other youth in the Pacific in August to land an internship in the Pacifical headquarters in Netherlands.
This is the first time that a Palauan has been selected as an intern – previously several young Micronesian interns have received valuable work experience and lessons from Pacifical.
With only a week left in his internship, Ngiruldelsang said his stint included working with the Pacifical team in collecting quantitative and qualitative data from store checks, internal and external market research, performing market analysis and research on the European and global market data for MSC certified tuna and working together with the Pacifical team on communication strategies for selected target markets.
Ngiruldelsang, a Liberal Arts student at the Palau Community College (PCC) said the call for applications piqued his interest. He has no background in fisheries but has been fascinated by the experience and can now see potential for a future career in fisheries.
“I learnt a little bit about marketing here and there, I’ve learnt a lot from the industry and I have learnt about Pacifical,” said Ngiruldelsang.
“I’ve learned a lot about the tuna industry and the PNA countries, FADs and about MSC and the tuna product from the PNA countries.”
He said his selection was a breeze; he showed his enthusiasm and willingness to be part of the internship program, which got him the opportunity to join the Pacifical team.
Ngiruldelsang said when he returns to Palau, he plans to spread awareness about PNA and Pacifical.
“A lot of people are not aware of the world of fisheries in the Pacific and not a lot of Paluanas have heard of PNA. They don’t know that Palau is part of PNA and that there is marketing company called Pacifical that markets tuna to the world.”
Ngiruldelsang said he is in the planning stages of producing a video on his experience at Pacifical and what he has learned about fisheries.
Prior to flying to the Netherlands for the internship, Ngiruldelsang hosted a weekly show on TMC, a local news channel in Palau.
Pacifical is the global marketing company that promotes the PNA region and actively trades their MSC-certified sustainably caught skipjack and yellowfin tuna to consumers around the world. Pacifical MSC-certified skipjack and yellowfin tuna from PNA waters is available in 23 different countries around the world and all products carry the Pacifical logo.
The additional patrol boat to Palau from Nippon and Sasakawa Foundation is being hailed as a boost in the fight against illegal fishing in the island-nation.
The new patrol boat, PSS Kedam also amplifies Palau’s national marine sanctuary law- a signature policy of the government that will ban commercial fishing in its 193,000 square miles of its exclusive economic zone by 2020.
The PSS Kedam is named after the Great Frigate Bird of Palau, a sea bird that is the largest bird found in Palau.
“Today is a proud day for Palau, a proud day for law enforcement and the grand responsibility of safeguarding our constitutional borders surrounded by vast oceans. Today is a proud day, for the fruits of friendship and partnership between public sector and the private sector,” Palau President Tommy Remenegsu Jr. said during the handover ceremony in Palau on Feb. 13.
The Nippon Foundation at a cost of over $30 million funds the new patrol boat Kedam .
The 40-meter patrol boat is also part of the grant assistance from the Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation on the 10-year $70 million assistance provided by the two foundations referred to as the Support to Enhance Coast Guard Capabilities and Promote Eco-conscious Tourism in Palau.
The Nippon Foundation also provided new berth and the administration building, while the Sasakawa Peace Foundation provided capacity training and salary for the crew for 10 years.
A signed memorandum of understanding in 2016 with Palau government stated that the Nippon Foundation will provide financial support to cover fuel and maintenance cost for the vessel until the end of Japanese fiscal year 2027, and for the boat until the end of Japanese fiscal year 2026.
The Sasakawa Peace Foundation will fund employment of crews to operate the medium-sized patrol vessel, including the training of those crews, which will be conducted by the Japanese partner organizations until the end of Japanese fiscal year 2027. Before PSS Kedam,
Palau only has one patrol boat- PSS H.I Remeliik, which is 31.5-meter (104ft). Remeliik is Palau’s first patrol board donated by the Australian government. PSS Remeliik is due to be replaced by Australia by 2020.
Remenegsau said Kedam and Remeliik will help patrol its ocean and assist tackling the challenge of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
“We are one percent land, and 99 percent ocean. And that means, we are indeed a large ocean state, and ocean is everything to us. It is our food security, it is our economic security, it is our cultural and social security, for it is our way of life.”
“Unfortunately, we are visited by problems not of our own making, but of signs and mankind, one of them, being the challenging part of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Today’s ceremony, activities and purpose will go a long way to assist Palau in tackling this important challenge,” he added. Palau has caught in their waters poachers from Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Vice President and Minister of Justice Raynold Oilouch said the Nippon Foundation included in their donation three smaller patrol boats; a high speed inflatable boat, a pick-up truck and satellite communication facilities.
“Palau now has one of the most state of the art surveillance and enforcement operations in the entire region, coupled with the latest technology and satellite surveillance and aircraft reconnaissance, Palau will now be able to effectively and efficiently monitor and enforce our exclusive economic zone against illegal fishing, drug and human trafficking, and increase our abilities for search and rescue for missing vessels and people,” Oilouch stated during the hand over ceremony.
Mitsuyuki Unno Executive Director of Nippon Foundation sin his remarks said the partnership with Palau is due to a shared common concern to protect the world’s oceans.
“For years, the Nippon Foundation has been working to make the world’s ocean sustainable. however, to address the diverse challenges that confront our oceans, there needs to be a new global ocean regime that transcends country borders, institutions, and specializations. and to pass on a bountiful ocean to future generations, we need to work together to develop a global vision for the next millennium,” Unno said.
In 2000, marine protected areas covered just 0.7 percent of the world’s oceans. Today 6.4 percent of the oceans are protected – about 9 million square miles. In 2010, 196 countries set a goal of protecting 10 percent of the world’s oceans by 2020.
Our research seeks to inform conservation policies that are effective, equitable and socially just. In our new study of established or proposed large marine protected areas in Bermuda, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Palau, Kiribati and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, we show that efforts to protect even remote sites can generate important outcomes for local residents that they may view as positive or negative. They can increase national pride and political leverage for indigenous populations, for example. They can also complicate international conservation negotiations or cause broad shifts in national economies.
Here we discuss the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, one of the world’s largest, which was created in 2015. This sanctuary illustrates how large-scale ocean conservation has the potential to produce important social benefits.
Palau is a small nation spread across several hundred islands in the western Pacific. As with many Pacific Island nations, Palau’s offshore tuna fishery is dominated by foreign vessels. Most of the revenues and fish that it produces are exported overseas. Only a small portion of the lowest-graded tuna makes it to Palau’s domestic market. At the same time, demand for seafood from Palau’s growing tourist industry is stressing other fish species in nearshore reefs.
As part of a sweeping conservation and development vision, the sanctuary designates 80 percent of Palau’s exclusive economic zone (defined in international law as waters extending from 12 up to 200 miles off its coastlines) as a no-take reserve, and the rest as a domestic fishing zone. Virtually all of the fish caught in this zone must be sold in Palau. Fishing in the no-take reserve will decline incrementally and end by 2020. Palau’s territorial, or coastal, waters lie outside the sanctuary boundaries, but are protected by other policies like the Protected Areas Network.
This design seeks to protect marine species by eliminating foreign commercial fishing in most of Palau’s waters, while developing a domestic fishing industry that supplies local markets with large open-ocean species like tuna. By shifting more consumption to these fish, it aims to reduce pressure on reef fisheries near shore. And by spotlighting these actions as part of a shift toward high-end tourism, it seeks to promote sustainable economic development.
As Palau’s President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. summarized, “The true purpose of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary is to protect our resources for our people.”
Translating these goals into action has triggered social changes within Palau. Sanctuary managers and nongovernment organizations are raising funds to provide more local fishermen with the midrange fishing vessels and capacity they need to access fish in the offshore domestic fishing zone. Many local fishermen are eager for this new livelihood source.
Palau’s government has drafted legislation and developed marketing campaigns that feature Palau’s conservation commitments. It is also increasing visitor fees and asking tourists to sign a Palau Pledge upon arrival, in which they promise to act in an environmentally and culturally responsible way during their stay.
While critics argue this strategy will do more for “rich tourists” than for conservation, we believe such assessments are premature. The goal is to limit the number of toilets flushing, divers on reefs and reef fish being eaten, while increasing revenue through higher returns from fewer visitors.
Importantly, we have seen no evidence that these changes will restrict local residents’ access to the spaces and resources they currently use. The domestic fishing zone is designed to give Palauans more access to fish in their waters. And Palau’s leaders have historically protected local access to the 445 Rock Islands – the primary destination for visitors – by designating only a small number for tourist use.
Linking offshore ocean protection to tradition
The marine sanctuary is also changing the way in which many Palauans relate to offshore ocean space. Palau’s council of highest ranking traditional leaders has enacted a customary law called a “bul” to protect the sanctuary through traditional protocols. A bul is conventionally used on land or in nearshore marine areas.
A member of Palau’s Council of Chiefs, which advises the president, told us that this is the first time traditional leaders have issued a bul in an offshore ocean area. This move has been controversial, but according to many of our interviewees, it grants the sanctuary a culturally important seal of approval and embeds offshore conservation within traditional knowledge and governance systems.
Of course, not all Palauans support the sanctuary. Some think the domestic fishing zone is too small, while others question how much protection the sanctuary actually offers for highly migratory open-ocean fish. Still others worry about possible lost fishing revenue or the impact of increasing visitor fees.
Future research should examine how these social changes unfold. So far, the evidence suggests that Palau’s sanctuary has potential to deliver both conservation and development gains.
Defining a new field
Palau’s sanctuary is one example of a new global phenomenon. But the race to create large ocean parks has outpaced science. Managers, along with biophysical and social scientists, are scrambling to answer questions about how well they work and who they benefit or harm.
Decades of research on smaller marine protected areas shows that they have to meet both biological and social goals to succeed. Now, more researchers are examining human dimensions across a number of large marine protected areas. Scientists can inform these conservation efforts by weighing evidence carefully in assessing how and why large ocean parks matter for people as well as for sea life.
The Palau government’s case filed against the Philippine fish carrier, Gene 8, was dismissed last week due to lack of government witnesses.
The Attorney General’s Office filed a motion asking for a rescheduling of the trial, but Associate Justice Kathleen Salii denied the move.
Based on the motion of continuance of the AGO, the Palau government could not make its case without witnesses because they were unavailable to appear before the court as prosecution witnesses.
Palau’s marine law officers seized Gene 8 in December of 2016. Palau’s patrol boat PSS Remeliik was conducting its marine surveillance when it found the vessel 45 miles northwest of Helen Reef.
The Gene No.8 was found moored to a fishing aggregation device, after which the marine officers boarded the vessel for an inspection.
The marine officers who were part of the surveillance operation during the apprehension of Gene 8 were at the time of the trial either in training off-island or on a surveillance mission outside of Koror.
The AGO also cited that that a new civil attorney hired by the AG’s office to handle the case has left the country in October and his contract was subsequently terminated in November.
Defense counsel for Gene 8 opposed the motion, saying that the AGO office had enough time to prepare for the trial and that the absence of witnesses during the trial is “inexcusable,” since they were aware of the trial date 74 days earlier.
The court gave credence to the defense counsel opposition and ordered the case dismissed. Justice Salii also ordered the return of the cash bail posted by the owners of the fish carrier. Saliil also ordered that the surety bond and cash bail posted are exonerated.
The Gene 8 itself was released on Oct 1 after posting a surety bond and allowed to sail back to the Philippines with the three remaining Filipino fishermen sent back home with the boat.
The Palau government offered to settle the case prior to the trial but the defense rejected the offer.
Microsoft’s Paul Allen, who on a number of occasions has visited Palau and lauded its marine conservation efforts, is pilot testing a new technology that will combat illegal fishing around the island-nation.
Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. recently announced that Allen will test the new technology in Palau starting in December, and that it will be up and running in 2018.
Allen made the announcement during Our Ocean conference in Malta on October 6.
According to a press statement from Allen’s company, Vulcan Inc. Allen is concerned about illegal fishing depleting global fish populations.
“Vulcan is developing a system that uses satellite imagery and data-analysis software to help countries spot and catch unlicensed fishing boats,” Allen said.
Called SkyLight, the new technology will also be tested in the African nation of Gabon.
Skylight uses technology to aid enforcement, particularly in countries with thousands of miles of coastline to patrol and few resources to do so.
Allen is reportedly spending $40 million to develop the SkyLight system.
SkyLight will input multiple data sources from satellite images, shipping records and information manually collected by officials standing on docks.
It will then use machine-learning software to track and predict which vessels might be operating illegally.
Skylight will contribute to implementing Palau’s monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) plan developed in 2016 with assistance from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
FFA also supports the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2), which funds a MCS coordinator to implement Palau’s MCS plan, and bring together the surveillance activities of the various Palau government agencies.
The MCS coordinator facilitates e-monitoring on fishing vessels operating in the Palau EEZ, which is where SkyLight will be important.
The machine learning capabilities of the SkyLight system is similar to what Vulcan has developed with its Domain Awareness System (DAS) that was developed to stop elephant poaching in Africa.
The solution is expected to be officially available for implementation during the first half of 2018.
“Our oceans produce half the oxygen we breath, 80 percent of life on earth, 16 percent of our planet’s animal protein, and $2.5 trillion in annual commerce.
But illegal fishing is robbing our seas and fueling a crisis of declining fish stocks around the world that not only threatens the global food supply and marine ecosystems, but also destabilizes global economic and national security,” said a statement on the Skylight global website stated.
Palau has declared 80% of its exclusive economic zone as a marine sanctuary and bans all foreign commercial fishing but needs assistance in policing its waters.
In 2016, Palau released a five-year monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) plan to fight illegal activities and manage emergency responses in its waters.
The plan guides Palau’s efforts to build the capacity and expertise to deter, detect, and stop illegal activities in its waters. It aims to protect the nation’s natural resources from illicit fishing and thwart other activities detrimental to its environment and the surrounding international waters.
“If you come to Palau to steal our fish, we will find you and you will be punished,” President Remengesau has earlier said about illegal fishing in Palau.
“To back up these strong words, we are strengthening our surveillance and enforcement system to better protect our ocean resources from poachers.”
To attract attention to tuna stories, I’m excited to be part of the new TUNApacific website aimed at bringing issues around tuna closer to our Pacific people; and sharing our tuna stories in one online news hub. From my experience as a longtime journalist in Palau, the issue of tuna and its economic benefits gets little news coverage.
Palau’s way of life is fishing but is concentrated on inshore fishing or one-man, one-boat kind of fishing. With tuna a multi-billion industry globally, Palau needs to realize the benefits of being involved.
I am excited to share to Palau my knowledge about tuna fisheries.
Maybe we are not asking the right questions or not getting the right answers, but I see the enormous potential in creating a domestic fishing industry in Palau and am hopeful that it will gain the same prominence in the media or in the campaign being conducted by Palau.
Watch this space for more reports, opinions or just plain rants about tuna… (Bernadette Carreon)