Palau‘s much-praised marine protected area, which took effect Jan. 1, 2020, is one of the important policies of the nation. We asked the four candidates seeking the presidential seat what they think about it and what will be the future of the marine sanctuary.
Raynold Oilouch: “What was supposed to be done, was not done fast enough.”
He said the rationale behind the law was a “good one” it builds on the tradition of bul of placing restrictions on fishing to protect marine resources for Palauans.
But now that the law has been implemented, Oilouch said the PNMS fell short of providing a steady supply of tuna in the domestic market.
“Now we have seen the law, we realized that there was a shortage of tuna supply in the domestic market, we saw that, we experienced that in the last two weeks, that’s quite surprising.”
He added, “what was supposed to be done was not done fast enough.”
He said although there was a gap left by commercial fishing vessels which used to conduct tuna fishing activity in Palau, he said he is seeing signs that local fishing vessels will fill in the gap.
He however said is open in amending the PNMS law, “ the laws are supposed to benefit the people if need be if we see that there are problems with the law we can always amend them to make it better then what it is today.”
Alan Seid: Strengthen the capacity of local fishermen
He said that when the PNMS was implemented, there has been difficulty in finding tuna in the domestic market, he said the government should be helping the local fishermen get access to capital to acquire fishing vessels and “ trained.”
He said he supports the PNMS and would not want to open the whole country to major fishing boats.
He believes in improving the capacity of the local fishermen to be able to benefit from fisheries. “Let’s help them become people that can harvest from these resources,”
Seid said he would also suggest amendments to the law.
Johnson Toribiong: PNMS is a paper park
He said that the PNMS is a “good idea on paper” but it needs to be reconsidered as the shortage of tuna is a consequence of PNMS.
“You can’t really have a continuing supply of tuna by relying on local fishermen, it takes a longline fishing boat to bring in a lot of tuna,” he said.
He said fishing is very expensive, “the boats, the crew, the fuel, the ice, the bait, its not cheap, the airplane to fly the tuna to Japan.”
Toribiong said if he becomes president, he would be open to amending the PNMS law.
Surangel Whipps Jr.- PNMS was a good initiative but it needs improvement
He said that the PNMS did not deliver one of its promises, create a local tuna fishing industry, causing a shortage of tuna supply.
Whipps said the creation of the local fishing industry that should have been in place since PNMS was a policy passed five years ago.
“My position we have seen the limitation and let’s work to improve them and really commit to developing a local fishing industry, unfortunately, we are not there yet.”
He said the policy should help improve the lives of the Palauan people. (Bernadette H. Carreon)