Palau Congress mulls reopening of marine sanctuary to foreign fishing

Koror-- Once again, a proposal to amend the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act (PNMS), a landmark conservation legislation Palau is known for, to allow foreign fishing within Palau’s EEZ, is being entertained by Olbiil Era Kelulau(OEK).

House Bill 11-30-2S seeks to amend PNMS Act by lifting the ban on fishing within the 80 percent EEZ currently designated as no-fishing zone.

The bill proposes to allow foreign fishing companies to conduct long line and purse seining activities within what is now the no-take zone of the PNMS for a period of five years.

Citing pandemic impact on Palau’s economy, the measure states that lifting the fishing ban would serve as short term solution for economic recovery.

“The Olbiil Era Kelulau finds that temporarily permitting long-line fishing and purse-seining utilizing free school operations under the international and foreign fishing agreements within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Palau’s waters is one such short-term measure that can generate revenue and aid our recovery.”

A similar proposal was introduced in 2019 and the debate continued into 2020 election campaign among presidential candidates.

In December 2020, then president-elect Surangel Whipps Jr. at a press conference expressed his position on the PNMS saying, “There is more to gain under the current system. It is about how to maximize our resources to benefit the Palauan people, “ said Whipps Jr.

The House bill claims in its findings that prior to the closure of PNMS to foreign fishing fleets that “foreign fishing agreements brought significant revenue to the Republic.” It said that allowing fishing agreements again will provide a short-term measure for economic recovery.