By: L.N. Reklai
May 17, 2017 (Koror, Palau) With additional patrol boat coming on line at the end of this year to support PSS Remeliik, Palau expects to catch more illegal fishing boats and ships and the question of how to deal with these boats and their crews is one challenge that Palau government need to have solution.
Last week, after Operation Kaukledm2, Palau marine law enforcement captured one fish carrier and one purse seiner.
The Office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Justice struck an agreement with boat owner of the fish carrier Master Rustin, fueled and equipped it and sent it back to the Philippines with its entire crew plus the additional fishermen that were captured earlier.
Before sending the boat back, Palau confiscated its catch of 42 tons of tuna which was distributed to local population.
“We struck a good balance by sending a message to the fishing community that we take this issue seriously,” stated Assistant Attorney General Jim Oliver.
Asked why they don’t prosecute to the full extent of the law which would fine these illegal boats up to $1 million dollars, AAG Oliver explained that there is a chance that the court may not grant that $1 million and that for each case, they look for the best balance.
Chief Tutii of the Department of the Marine Law Enforcement added that often times the captured boats are not worth $1 million dollars and owners may just cut their losses and forfeit the boats.
AAG Oliver said they seek to strike a balance in the best interest of the Republic such as in the recent case of Master Rustin. By taking back 41 crew members, Palau no longer bear the cost of their maintenance and by confiscating their catch, they send a strong message to the fishing community that they will bear huge losses if they are caught illegally fishing in Palau waters.
Regarding the caught purse seiner, Oliver stated he will file charges seeking highest possible penalties because he feels that they have good evidence to work with.
Attorney General’s Office is authorized to negotiate with boat owners for settlement of each case but final outcome is based on both AG and MOJ’s approval of the settlement. [/restrict]