Photo from International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)/Fabien Forget

President Remengesau Jr. referred back to Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK), Wednesday a proposed measure that will exempt foreign fishing fleets using Palau as a transshipment port for fish caught outside of Palau waters from export tax.

Remengesau urged the OEK to re-think the “unintended consequences” of Senate Bill 10-174, SD2, PD1.

The bill removed the export tax but also proposed a landing fee on foreign fishing fleets offloading its catch for transshipment in Palau.

However, President Remengesau said while the intention of the bill to incentivize fleets to conduct transshipment here is welcome, the possibility that the foreign vessels could flood the domestic market with their catch could result in unfair competition with the local fishermen.

“The primary unintended consequence that we need to avoid is unfair competition for our local fishermen,” the president said in his letter to Senate President Hokkons Baules and House of Delegates Speaker Sabino Anastacio.

In the PD1 version he sent with referral, he provided proposed changes that clearly states transshipment of fish caught “outside of Palau waters”.

The changes he added included promulgation of regulations to define the scope of transshipment at port and requirement of the use of automatic location communicators as well as terms governing domestic sale of fish.

“But the bill as passed did not contemplate the possibility of foreign fleets coming here to transship at port, and then flooding our local market with their lower-quality catch,” he said.

The measure said the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act has resulted in changes in the fishing industry here and impacted fishing companies who used to have a long-standing presence in the country.

The bill aims to attract the companies back to Palau through transshipment and off-loading operations.

The measure will be a way for the companies to maintain their presence here without diminishing Palau’s conservation efforts through the PNMS.

Lawmakers in pushing for the measure said the PNMS will not be affected because exemption from the export tax will apply to fleets that catch tuna outside of the nation’s waters.