President Tommy Remengesau Jr. is in favor of the request from the Japan government to allow small scale fishermen from Okinawa even after the implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) beyond 2020.

Remengesau however said the fishing should occur at the Domestic Fishing Zone which encompasses 85,896 square miles of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with the 80 percent or 500,238 square kilometres as a “no-take zone.”

“We are not going to compromise the integrity of the PNMS, we however mindful of the 20 percent domestic fishing zone, which is a big area.,” Remengesau said.

Japan is one of Palau’s generous friend providing aid for infrastructure and marine suveillance. Japan has also thrown its support to Palau’s hosting of the Our Oceans Conference in 2020.

A dedicated 20 percent of the EEZ will be accessible to domestic fishing fleets. But the domestic fishing zone according to the law is reserved for local fishermen and prohibits exports. The law also required that any fish caught at the domestic fishing zone   should be offloaded in Palau.

Currently the fishermen from Okinawa conduct fishing outside the 20 percent Domestic Fishing Zone.

Remengesau however is keen to accommodate the fishermen alluding to the possibility of amendments into the PNMS law specifically about provision that requires that all catches should be offloaded in Palau.

“Its about the livelihood of their people, its not a commercial operation, the question is can we do a win-win situation? I think we can.”

Japan also has the backing of the Senate which recently passed a joint resolution supporting wishes of the small scale fishermen.

Senate Joint Resolution 10-45 supports the Government of Japan’s request to allow vessels to continue its commercial fishing operation.

The Senate Committee on Resources, Commerce, Trade and Development in its panel reported stated that Japan has assisted Palau in various infrastructure development and capacity building that it should “reciprocate” by allowing should accorded with “fishing rights.” (Bernadette H. Carreon)