A proposal amending the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act(PNMS) to allow long-line fishing within the 20% Domestic Fishing Zone was introduced in the Senate, OEK this April.

According to bill findings, restrictions placed on the designated Domestic Fishing Zone of the PNMS Act are over burdensome and do not help the main objectives of PNMS Act.

The bill proposes to allow long-line fishing within the 20% Domestic Fishing Zone and allow export of fish caught from within the Domestic Fishing Zone.  Currently under PNMS Act, free-schooling purse seine operations may continue beyond 2020 but must fish only within the 20% Domestic Fishery Zone.

The bill also removes the requirement for purse seine operations from having to land their catch in Palau.

In a letter to President Remengesau, Minister Umiich also requested that long-line fishing be allowed within the 20% Domestic Fishing Zone like the free-schooling purse seine operations and that the export ban on fish caught within the Domestic Fishing Zone be removed.

Stanford Center for Oceanic Solutions, based on a study conducted by University of Hawaii in partnership with Palau International Coral Reef Center on the Socio-economic Baseline Project of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, in a letter to Minister Umiich also concurred with the policy to allow export of fish caught within the 20% Domestic Fishing Zone.

The group, in a letter to MNRET Minister UmiichSengebau, said the “analysis to date indicates that it will be difficult to develop and maintain a robust fishery in the 20% of Palau’s EEZ that has been reserved as domestic fishing zone, if the fish caught can only be sold in Palau.”

The study that sought to collect and provide information for the purpose of developing a domestic fishery policy as well as a baseline of information on socio-economic impact of PNMS stated, “Without interventions, PNMS areas restrictions could drastically diminish the domestic supply of tuna and other pelagic fish, as it willlikely not be economically rational for the industrial vessels to continue to land fish in Palau.”

In the past months, Japan and Taiwan had both requested Palau to allow them to continue to fish beyond 2020.

President Remengesauexpressed a number of times that they are looking at the 20% Domestic Fishing Zone to see how Palau can develop its domestic fishery in partnership with Japan’s fishing companies whilst ensuring food security and tourism growth.

Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act designates 80% of Palau’s EEZ as no-take zone but allows domestic fishing within 20%.  Year 2020 is when all fishing activity within the 80% of Palau’s EEZ will stop whilst free-schooling purse seine activities may continue but only within the 20% Domestic Zone.

The bill seeks to expand that exemption to long-line fishing and allow for export of catch caught within the 20% Domestic Fishing Zone. (L.N. Reklai)