Frustrated with the onslaught of illegal, unregulated and unlicensed fishing (IUU) operations, Palau’s leadership took strong actions against violators by burning their vessels and sinking them to bottom of the ocean.
Poachers have been warned to experience the same fate should they choose to poach and exploit Palau’s marine resources in the future. The strong action and message sent by Palauan officials was made on June 11, 2015 when law enforcement officials set ablaze four Vietnamese vessels whose captain and crew were found guilty of illegal fishing.
The news of Palau’s stand on IUU activities was featured in many well-known news agencies and publication including the Washington Post and The Strait Times, and shared thousands of times in various social media networks garnering global support.
“Palau is simply no longer an option when it comes to poaching”, stated President Tommy Remengesau Jr. “Palau guarantees, you will return with nothing. Captains will be prosecuted and jailed. Boats will be burned. Nothing will be gained from poaching in Palau.”
The unauthorized “Blue Boat” vessels were discovered with over 8 metric tons of sea cucumbers and reef fish disclosed the Office of the President.
Two other Blue Boats were not burned however they were stripped of all fishing gears and other equipment’s with the exception of enough fuel and provisions to transport them back to Vietnam.
President Remengesau says Palau has one simply message, “We will not tolerate poachers in our ocean.”
Palau continues to work toward developing a comprehensive enforcement plan to deter illegal fishing activities, a major threat to Palau’s food security and important marine resources. According to the Office of the President, 15 Blue Boats from Vietnam have been captured stealing over 25 metric tons of marine species since 2014.
Palau is not the first country to take harsh actions against poachers. Indonesia recently destroyed about 41 foreign fishing vessels from China, Philippines, and Vietnam.
While many have expressed support for Palau’s actions, other have cited possible Law of the Sea violations however according to reports, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea has reportedly backed such moves saying countries can be held liable for not taking necessary measures to prevent IUU fishing operations by their vessels.
Aiming to implement stricter enforcement, Palau is working with international organizations such as The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in bettering policing of its exclusive economic zone.
Meanwhile, the President’s proposed National Marine Sanctuary legislation which includes severe fines for such activities is still pending in the Senate.