Some thirty officers representing the government (Attorney-General’s Office, Bureau of Agriculture (BOA), Customs, Environmental Quality Protection Board, Ngatpang State, Quarantine, Department of Fish and Wildlife Protection), private sector/producer (BIOTA, Inc., Coral Reef Research Foundation, Palau Aquaculture Association, Palau Conservation Society, The Environment, Inc., private consultants) and the academe (Palau Community College) met on 28 March during a national consultation held at Palasia Hotel to deliberate on new draft regulations on biosecurity for live aquatic organisms and their products and biofouling management. They are intended to protect Palau’s young and growing aquaculture sector, as well as its exquisite coral reefs and lagoons.
With the support of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Bureau of Agriculture (BOA) and other partners in the marine and aquaculture sectors have been working with a team of experts on aquatic animal health, hull fouling, and database development to support the recently approved Biosecurity Act of 2014 that will protect Palau’s aquaculture producers from diseases and other threats to their farms. In addition, a 2-day training course on Biosecurity Database Development was also held on 24 and 27 March.
The Honorable Minister Umiich Sengebau, Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism, thanked FAO and the government partners for supporting this important effort by the BOA to protect Palau’s fledgling aquaculture industry and our pristine marine environment. He told the group that “These protections should be adopted and implemented as quickly as possible, and I ask that all here today work together toward this end.”
There was strong consensus from the consultation participants to support the implementation of the Biosecurity Act of 2014, finalize the draft regulations and submit a position paper that will enable Palau’s President and Cabinet to make informed decisions to support Pristine Paradise Palau through a culture of protection and conservation.
Aquaculture can be an important source of biological invasions, either because the organisms being raised are invasive aquatic species (IAS), or because of the presence of hitchhikers or other contaminants in import shipments. Aquaculture organisms can also carry diseases which may impact the aquaculture industry, and may spread to native aquatic and marine organisms. In order to reduce pressures on stocks of wild marine fish and other marine organisms of economic importance, the national government has decided to increase aquaculture efforts, both marine and freshwater. While ongoing efforts have focused on breeding native fish and shellfish, such as groupers, clams, and mangrove crabs, there is pressure to import non-native organisms, such as tilapia and white shrimp.
Shipping has also been a major marine biosecurity concern in the last decade and is known to cause the global spread of marine organisms. All groups of marine organisms may be transported through ballast water. Encrusting organisms (e.g. macro-algae, bivalve molluscs, barnacles, bryozoans, sponges and tunicates), can be carried by hulls, and which may not only introduce novel pathogens but more seriously allow the spread and establishment of hard-to-eradicate species that prey on or outcompete indigenous species, foul ports, coasts and aquaculture facilities. These harmful invasive species represent a serious threat to the pristine marine waters of the country with urgent attention required given the significant increase in recreational yachts and other vessels entering Palau’s territorial waters. Recreational vessels are a very high risk for hull fouling organisms, as they are slow moving and may lack the economic incentives of the shipping industry to keep their hulls immaculate. [/restrict]