The senate re-passed on third reading the bill that proposes to establish a 10-year moratorium on the killing and harvesting of hawksbill turtles in Palau.

President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. previously referred the bill, citing that although it brings much-needed attention to the hawksbill turtle, which is a critically endangered animal, the bill “lacks the ability to regulate and enforce its own provisions.”

Remengesau, in a letter addressed to Senate President Hokkons Baules which was dated April 3, 2018, had also proposed to add in the existing provision that the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism (MNRET) shall be the body tasked in the promulgation of regulations necessary to enforce the provisions.

Remengesau also stated in the letter that it should be the Division of Fish and Wild Life under the Ministry of Justice who shall enforce its regulations.

Apart from these, Palau’s president had also asked the Senate to reconsider some previous provisions that the bill indicated in the previous version.

The current version of the bill that was re-passed on the 3rd reading still proposes to prohibit the harvesting, taking or killing of hawksbill turtles, regardless of location or size, for 10 years after the bill becomes law.

The bill added a new provision to allow businesses that “possessed goods made from any part of the hawksbill turtle in their inventory prior to the effective date of th[e] act” to continue selling these goods for two years after the law takes effect. Remengesau, in the same letter to Senator Baules, had proposed this, citing that the passage of the bill on its previous form would “unfairly harm those businesses that have spent significant sums of money obtaining what was, at the time, legal to sell.”

“I therefore request that you consider finding a middle ground, such as allowing these businesses that already own goods made from parts of the hawksbill turtle to continue selling these goods for two years,” Remengesau’s letter reads.

During the two-year sell-off period, if the bill is passed into a law, consumers are also allowed to purchase the goods made from the prohibited turtle species. But after the two-year sell-off period, for the rest of the period of the moratorium, businesses will no longer be allowed to add new inventory that are made from any parts of the hawksbill turtle nor manufacture goods that are made from it.

The same bill also seeks to prohibit the taking or killing of all turtle species unless their shells are at least 34 inches when “measured over the top of the carapace shell lengthwise.”

The taking of eggs of any sea turtles are also prohibited if the bill becomes a law. (Rhealyn C. Pojas/Reporter)