President Tommy Remengesau Jr. referred back for further consideration the bill establishing moratorium on and increasing penalties associated with harvesting, taking, selling or killing of hawksbill (ngasech) turtles.  The bill also appropriates funding for the 25th Silver Anniversary Conference of the Mechesil Belau.

In his referral letter, Remengesau says he supports the bill and lauded OEK for bringing “much-needed” attention to the “critically endangered animal” the hawksbill turtle “ngasech.

He stated the bill lacks ability to regulate and enforce its own provisions and believed that this can be fixed by amending the bill.

He recommended that the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism be the agency to establish regulations to enforce this bill once it becomes law since it is already tasked to do similar regulations.

Furthermore, the Division of Fish & Wildlife under the Ministry of Justice is the appropriate enforcement agency to enforce the law and the regulations.

Remengesau recommends that sections of the bill restricting possession of goods made from hawksbill turtle be removed.  “Consider the present practical implications.”  Restrictions will harm those who previously and legally came into possession of the goods, both consumers and shop owners, he added.

He further urged OEK to find a compromise on the complete ban on sales of goods made from hawksbill turtle.  He said it would be unfair to businesses that have spent significant amount of money buying products when they were legal.  He recommends complete ban on sales of these products after 5 years instead of 10 years as now stated in the bill.

“Because it would still be illegal to import, export, consume, harvest or kill this turtles, I believe this is necessary middle ground that will serve to balance the need to protect the turtle with the need to protect our small business owners.”

He assured that he will support the bill will the stated recommendations. (L.N. Reklai/Editor)