Palau is the latest country to take up the challenge of combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) by 2023 in the Pacific.

President Tommy Remengesau Jr., in his closing remarks at the 19th Micronesia Presidents’ Summit on Friday, said the region should support the IUU Free Pacific by 2023 challenge made by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).

In October at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s Technical and Compliance Committee meeting in Majuro, Marshall Islands President Hene called on Pacific nations to agree to get rid of IUU fishing by 2023.

She stressed the same call of action at the summit meeting here last week, where the other nations, FSM, Kiribati and Nauru, made commitments to join the fight against IUU.

Remengesau said the Micronesian region might be small but it comprises of large ocean states which makes it all the more important to band together to deal with environmental degradation, including illegal fishing.

“My friends, I like to refer to our nations as the Large Ocean States.  With this title comes great responsibility.  Not only must we exploit our marine resources for the benefit of our people – we must protect them for our children and for the world at large,” Remengesau said when he welcomed the leaders in the summit last week.

“We must, therefore, continue to lead the world in creative responses to the environmental degradation that faces our Pacific Ocean through pollution, climate change, over-fishing, illegal fishing and the like.  Together we must move forward with initiatives that prevent IUU fishing, that expand our protected areas and that places limitations on pollution at every level.”

The Forum Fisheries Agency, in 2016, estimated fish either harvested or transshipped illegally in the Pacific region to be in the order of $600 million.

Palau by January 1, 2020, will implement the national marine sanctuary, which is aimed at strengthening efforts to prevent illegal fishing.

The law will tighten rules against vessels passing through Palau’s waters.  Because the law will prohibit commercial fishing in an area covering 500,000 square kilometers, the marine resources will be protected from poaching through an effective policing of EEZ. (Bernadette H. Carreon)