Fishing boat John Tomas #8 at Marine Law Dock in Malakal, serving as a prison for convicted Captain Arnel Ada.

Captain Arnel S. Ada, Sr. of a fishing boat John Tomas #8, from the Philippines, was found guilty on four counts of violating Palau National Marine Sanctuary law and sentenced to one-year imprisonment for each count, running concurrently and fined $503,000.00 USD.  He is serving his imprisonment sentence aboard the fishing boat at Malakal port, where he is not allowed to leave unless ordered by the court.

Captain Arnel S. Ada of the John Tomas fishing boat was charged for Hovering in the Exclusive Economic Zone, Fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone, having Fishing Gear Not Stowed/Readily Available for Use, and Using Fishing Boat to Fish in Palau’s Domestic Fishing Zone, all in violation of 7 PNCA.

Vice President and Minister of Justice J. Uduch Sengebau-Senior said that Palau is actively enforcing the PNMS law with the support and assistance of allies and partners.  This particular case of Captain Arnel S. Ada Sr. is an example of such support, added Vice President Senior.

In November 2021, during a joint exercise patrol between Palau’s Division of Maritime Security and Taiwan Coast Guard Hsun Nu No. 8, Palau Marine Law Officer was onboard of Taiwan Coast Guard vessel when they noticed a vessel on the ship’s radar heading toward Palau.  The vessel was identified as a Vessel of Interest(VOI), meaning that it didn’t look like it was just passing through.

According to the court filing, the Taiwan Coast Guard vessel with Palau Marine Law Officer Jim Kloulechad approached the vessel and contacted its captain.  Upon boarding the fishing vessel, they found fish aggregation devices (FADs) and were able to determine that the fishing boat had been laying out FADS within Palau’s domestic fishing zone.

Based on the boat’s GPS readings, fishing aggregate devices on the boat and in the water, and lack of license to fish in Palau’s waters, the boat, its captain, and crew were brought to shore and charged for violation of Palau laws.

Despite the size of the PNMS and Palau’s limited resources, Vice President Senior said that it is not a “paper sanctuary” but a real one where Palau actively enforces its laws, doing so with the assistance and support of its partners, Taiwan, the United States, Japan, Australia as well as non-government organizations such as Global Watch and others.

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