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Illegal Shark Fishing Fines - Palau and Marshall Islands

 

In Palau, the operators of a Taiwanese fishing vessel have been fined $US65,000 and the vessel and its captain banned from fishing in Palauan waters for 1 year, for illegal shark fishing in the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The vessel was caught in a joint patrolling operation between the Palau Government and Greenpeace, and settlement was made in the Supreme Court of Palau last month.


All commercial shark fishing is banned within Palau’s waters, after the entire EEZ was declared a shark sanctuary in 2009.  In early December 2011, pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Palaun Government and Greenpeace Australia Pacific, a joint enforcement exercise was being conducted when the Taiwanese vessel was detected carrying out shark finning activities.   


The Republic of Palau made three civil claims based on violations of the Palau National Code against the captain and the associated companies, namely the charterer and the entity managing operations of the vessel.  The incidents giving rise to the claims were, in summary: 

    • Catching and removing the fins of the sharks; and
    • Failing to maintain an automatic location communicator (ALC) – a component of vessel monitoring systems (VMS) - in proper working order on board the vessel while in Palau’s EEZ

In addition, criminal charges were laid against the captain of the vessel in relation to the shark fishing activities, for committing a Prohibited Act of Foreign Fishing also in violation of the Palau National Code.  


The terms of the settlement agreement between the Republic of Palau and the Defendants requires payment of the US$65 000 fine and prevents the captain of the vessel from fishing in Palau’s territorial waters for a period of one year. President of the Republic of Palau, Johnson Toribiong, told Radio Australia the fine will be used to strengthen his country's ability to monitor its waters for illegal fishing activity.


Greenpeace Australia Pacific have previously entered into similar agreements to conduct shared enforcement and patrol operations with the governments of Federated States of Micronesia and Kiribati, in 2006. 

 

In February 2012, the Marshall Islands issued the first fine under a new fisheries law, introduced in late 2011, which also bans all shark fishing in its EEZ.   The Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority fined Japanese tuna transshipment vessel, Satsuma, US$125,000 and confiscated thousands of pounds of shark fins, skins, carcasses and fishing gear. Under the new laws it is illegal to have shark carcasses on board.  Director of the Marine Resources Authority, Mr Glen Joseph explained that "It doesn’t matter where the sharks were caught, if you have shark on board, you are in violation of the law."

 

More information on these stories is available through Radio Australia (here & here).  The PIDP / East West Center Pacific Island Report also reported the case in the Marshall Islands (here).