Palau studying new fishing scheme for RP vessels
- Marianne V. Go () - October 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Nagoya, Japan — Palau is putting into place a new scheme that will allow Philippine fishing vessels to continue fishing in Palau territorial waters beyond 2012.

In an interview with Harry R. Fritz, Palau’s Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism, he disclosed to The STAR that the Palau government is drawing up a “vessel day scheme” whereby fishing vessels that want to fish within Palau territorial waters would simply pay a flat payment of $2,000 a day per vessel.

On the other hand, Fritz said that Palau would strongly oppose the move of the Philippines to call for a removal of the high seas ban on tuna fishing.

The high seas ban on tuna fishing was imposed by eight Pacific Islands collectively known as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement or PNA.

The aim of the high seas tuna fishing ban is to conserve fast depleting tuna stocks, particularly the bigeye and yellow fin tuna.

The Philippines is planning to appeal the ban during a meeting of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Hawaii this December, while the PNA countries are pushing for an even wider coverage of the ban.

However, the PNA’s move is already expected to meet strong opposition, especially from Japan.

At present, Fritz revealed, only six Palauan fishing companies have licenses to fish in Palau.

However, only one company has a fishing vessel, Fritz admitted.

Thus, the rest of the Palauan fishing firms enter into joint ventures with foreign fishing firms, mostly Filipino, to fish within Palau’s territorial waters.

Japan and the United States, Fritz said, have bilateral agreements with Palau for purse seine fishing within Palau’s territorial waters.

Other Filipino fishing vessels, however, Fritz admitted, continue to fish illegally within Palau’s expanded economic zone.

Only last August, Fritz revealed, six Filipino fishing vessels were caught for illegal fishing.

However, after paying the necessary fines, the Filipino vessels were released, Fritz said.

Palau, Fritz admitted, has not lodged any diplomatic protest against the continued poaching and, in fact, is trying to work out an amicable fishing arrangement with its Philippine neighbor.

Palaun lawmakers, Fritz said, were trying to pass fishing legislation that would take effect by 2012.

Unfortunately, the proposed legislation, Fritz said, has encountered some opposition due to certain provisions regarding an export tax on the fish caught.

Additionally, the proposed legislation is also encountering some difficulty with regard to the gathering of accurate date on how much fish is caught and how much is “landed” in General Santos City in Mindanao.

The planned “vessel day scheme”, Fritz said, would help resolve the current problem being encountered by Filipino fishing companies in Gensan with regard to the recent implementation by the European Union of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing rules and a catch certification system.

The IUU is intended to stop the over-exploitation of dwindling fisheries stocks.

Fish that are not certified will not be allowed to be imported to the EU and other to other countries that adhere to the IUU regulation.

Fritz announced here Saturday at the sidelines of the ongoing 10th Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, its new ban on the fishing of marine mammals — specifically whales and dolphins — as part of its efforts to conserve and promote biodiversity.

Palau had previously also banned the fishing of sharks.

Palau’s latest pronouncement raised the eyebrows of its Pacific Island neighbors since Palau’s action affects its major donor — Japan — which Palau has supported in the past with regard to continued whaling activities.

Fritz, however, assured that Japan would understand and respect Palau’s commitment to conserve and promote biodiversity.

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