Sale of jewelry made from turtle shells are still sold in stores despite the law banning sale of any jewelry or products made from hawksbill turtle (ngasech) shell that went into effect in April of 2020. Law enforcement says it cannot tell if its real turtle shell or fake.
Despite the ban, many stores all over the island still carry turtle shell products and jewelry. When asked why these are still being sold, Chief of Fish & Wildlife Temdik Ngirblekuu whose Division is in charge of enforcement of this law said that they are aware of the law but enforcement is very difficult.
“We have no capacity or ability to determine whether the item for sale is real turtle shell or plastic and whether it is hawksbill turtle (ngasech) or a different turtle,” reported Chief Ngirblekuu in a phone interview.
He added that stores are aware of the law but the law only prohibits harvest and use of hawksbill turtle and its shell. He said that there was some talk by congress to extend the 2-year moratorium on sell-off but he was not sure if it became law or not.
When asked if Fish &Wildlife had brought up the enforcement challenges of this law, Ngirblekuu said that they had informed the Minister and there was some talk with lawmakers but he is not aware of the outcome.
RPPL 10-24 imposed a moratorium on killing and harvesting hawksbill turtle (Ngasech) for 10 years, effective April of 2018. The law allowed for 2-year “sell off” of any jewelry or product made from hawksbill turtle starting from the date the bill became law which was April 17, 2018. The businesses carrying inventory of hawksbill turtle products were given two years to sell off their inventory. They were not allowed to purchase new inventory during the entire 10-year moratorium. Based on the law, the 2-year period expired on April 17, 2020.
The moratorium does not apply to other turtle species. Harvest of other turtle species are still allowed but within set season allowed by law, which is first of December to 31st of January. Harvest is restricted by size too.
The law, which was supported by Mechesil Belau, Palau Conservation Society, President Remengesau and many people, seems to find itself toothless and ineffective due limited technical capacity despite its laudable intentions.