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

The government has allowed the exports of reef fish last week from a local company citing that the purchase from an offshore client was done prior to the law on reef fish export ban took effect.

Minister of Natural Resources Environment and Tourism (MNRET) said JR Fish Market was allowed to ship out the orders, “but only one time which should have happened last Thursday.”

JR Fish Market said that a customer from Guam had purchased the fish early that week and they had booked the fish to depart on a Thursday flight and on Wednesday, President signed into law the bill banning the export of reef fish.

The move to export despite the new law was called out in social media.

But the company explained that the reason it took until last week to send the product out was to ensure the legality of the export.

The company explained that the Constitution states that the law cannot nullify an existing contract prior to the law and that the fish purchase was a legal contract. The company said it took sometimes for government lawyers to research the matter before they were given clearance to export the fish.

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. on April 8 signed a law banning the exports of reef fish, including personal consumption exports.

The president said the new law not only bans commercial exports but also the practice of filling up coolers with reef fish to send to family and friends in Guam, Saipan, Hawaii, or anywhere else.

“I am sure almost every Palauan has mixed feelings about banning the exports of reef fish, I, like most people I know have grown to love and appreciate the bringing of reef fish to my family abroad, giving them a taste of Palau while they are living far away,” Remengesau said in his signing statement.

However, the president said there have been a staggering number of reef fish being taken out from the sea in decades.  He said in 2019 alone, the exports of reef fish were 230,000 lbs and 200,000 lbs of those were declared for personal consumptions.  (B. Carreon)