President Tommy Rememgesau Jr is asking the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) to maintain the fishing ban on the endangered Napoleon Wrasse (maml) and allow fishing of the Bumphead Parrot Fish only if there is scientific evidence to support  “such a season will not threaten the health or sustainability of the species.”

On Tuesday, Remengesau referred back SB 10-78, SD1, but included is his version of the bill which he said balances conservation versus protecting cultural traditions.

“I believe that this amended version of the bill is in line with the Palauan tradition of bul, and will permit the Palauan people to use their natural resources in a sustainable way that ensures they will still be available for future generations. And critically, this amended version is in line with the recommendations of scientific experts,” the president said in his referral letter to the OEK.

He said based scientific recommendations and of the Palau local community, Napoleon Wrasse will not be fished and will remain protected, given that it is listed “as a threatened species in the CITES Treaty.”

“Permitting its harvesting would be harmful to our environment, economy, and Palau’s international reputation as an environmentally forward-thinking nation. “

In his amendment, the president said limited seasons for permitted fishing of Bumphead Parrot Fish will be allowed but under very strict regulations.

The amendment said permitted fishing would be allowed, “if and only if Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) finds, in writing” that it’s sustainable to fish for the species.

Within these limited seasons permitted fishermen will be allowed to take adult Bumphead Parrot Fish for consumption in conjunction with Palauan traditional events. Any permits that are issued will be required to include appropriate restrictions, such as prohibitions on the sale, export, or interfering with spawning.

No permits, however, will be issued prior to February 1, 2022.

He said the delay is necessary so a scientific study of the current state of the population can be done, required submitted no later than February 1, 2021.

The amendment added that there is a need to put in place the appropriate permitting system that can then be designed based on that study.

OEK’s version of the bill seeks to put an end to a 27-year fishing ban but Remengesau wanted to solicit comments from the community before he signed the legislation. A petition, which has garnered nearly 5,000, was urging the president to reject the bill.

Remengesau said he recognized those who sent their comments on the proposed measure regardless of whether it came from outside of Palau.

“I think those who commented on the bill are good friends of Palau. They care about Palau and that’s why they take time to comment. Most of them, before commenting on the bill, they say said they have been to Palau, they have read about Palau and that they proud of Palau, they think Palau as pristine paradise.” (Bernadette H. Carreon Brooks)