A tuna company, Palau Tuna Inc., has flooded the local market with tuna due to inability to sell outside of Palau.

According to tuna company’s legal counsel, what they could not sell locally, they have donated to schools, hospitals and other agencies but still have tons available.

The company had asked the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism (MNRET) why they could not sell all their catch to overseas market.

In response, Minister Umiich Sengebau explained that the licenses they bought were not among those permitted for commercial export.

Furthermore, he explained that as part of the “transition period” before Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act’s full prohibition takes effect, gradual reduction of tuna export from 2015 to 2020 will take place.  And as part of this transition, only 50% of the VSD permits allocated to Palau by PNA was for commercial export whilst the remaining 50% was for domestic sales only.

According to the letter, Palau Tuna purchased permits that only allowed domestic sales and not for commercial export.

Moreover, these licenses do not allow for a third party buyer to buy from Palau Tuna and sell overseas.  “Your client may purchase tuna from Palau Tuna Inc., for domestic sale but they cannot export the fish purchased for sale in overseas markets.”

He added that the conditions on the fishing permits restricted sale of the fish to domestic markets only to ensure that the government can limit the overall commercial export of tuna in line with the transition period.

In a related story, President Remengesau in a statement,said they are still talking with Japan regarding possibility of working to develop domestic fisheries through potential partnerships between Japanese fishing companies and local companies to fish within the allowable 20% of Palau’s EEZ.

The current policy affecting Palau Tuna Inc. will also prohibit any partnerships between Palau and Japan fishing companies from exporting tuna commercially because the law restricts catch to be landed and sold domestically.  It will require a change in the current PNMS law.

(By L.N. Reklai)