National law RPPL 10-54 may put a damper on the upcoming trochus season, if people are expecting to collect and sell the trochus to overseas buyers. The law appears to prohibit export of any marine resources not cited under the exceptions in the law.

Executive Order 446 was signed this week by President Surangel Whipps Jr., authorizing the opening of trochus collecting season as directed by House Joint Resolution 11-4-1S,HD1. The season was declared to open from June 20 to July 17 of this year.

The purpose for the opening of the limited season to collect trochus is to provide an income to Palauan families through collection and sales of trochus. Trochus is traditionally sold to buyers who sell to overseas markets. There is no large commercial market for trochus shells in Palau, only small-scale jewelry production.

RPPL 10-54, which prohibits export of fish outside the Republic, further stops exportation of other marine resources that are not exported for research purposes, or farmed through aquaculture or mariculture.

Section 1204 (r) states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to, (r) export or cause to be exported, any species of living resources that predominantly inhabit reef areas, the territorial seas, or internal water of the Republic. However, notwithstanding this section, any species collected for research purposes, or collected as gametes, or bred in captivity at an aquaculture or mariculture farm by a person licensed by the Minister may be possessed, sold or exported no matter the amount…”.

At this week’s leadership meeting, President Whipps revealed that no buyer has expressed interest but Marine Resource will be looking for buyers.

Even if buyers are found who will be willing to purchase trochus, the current law may prohibit sale of trochus to that buyer.

The latest trochus (semum) survey conducted by the Bureau of Marine Resource and PICRC shows a 20% increase in the number of trochus per hectare since the 2016 survey.

An estimated 2.9 million out of the estimated 3.3 million individuals are of legal harvestable size, according to a survey conducted in 122 sites from Kayangel all the way to Peleliu.

Of the surveyed trochus count, 86% of the population are greater than the legal size of 3 inches and 48% of the population are greater than 4 inches.

Trochus is illegal to harvest unless authorized by a resolution of Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK).

(By: L.N. Reklai)

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