Palau bans shark hunting at request of divers
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2003:
KOROR, Palau–Shark-hunting of any kind is illegal within 50
nautical miles of any part of the western Pacific island nation of
Palau, effective since mid-September 2003.
The shark-hunting ban is part of a new national marine
conservation law that also “protects reef fish, sea turtles, rays,
and any marine mammal from foreign fishing,” Agence France-Press
“A bold move for a developing nation struggling to balance
generating tax revenue with environmental protection,” Agence
France-Press observed, the new law may prove difficult to enforce.
Whether Palau has enough patrol boats and aircraft to intercept
alleged violators remains to be seen.
However, the new law is a sweeping first victory for the
Micronesian Shark Foundation, formed in April 2003 by Boston
University marine biologist Philip Lobel in partnership with Fish ‘n
Fins, a Palauan firm that outfits diving expeditions and promotes
Palauan native Francis Toribong opened Fish ‘n Fins as the
first local dive shop in 1972, inspired by a visit to Palau several
years earlier by the late Jacques Cousteau.
“Toribong and Fish ‘n Fins supported scientist Bill Hamner in
researching Jelly Fish Lake and other marine lakes in Palau,” the
Fish ‘n Fins web site recounts. “In 1996 Toribong starred in the
IMAX documentary The Living Sea.”
Retiring in 1998, Toribong turned Fish ‘n Fins over to
around-the-world sailors Tova Har-El and Navot Bornovski, who came to
Palau in 1986.
Shark fishers typically keep only the fins, which sell for
high prices in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other affluent
Pacific Rim cities. The rest of each shark is usually discarded,
sometimes still alive, to avoid filling hold space with remains of
relatively low commercial value. The harm to slow-reproducing shark
populations is multiplied further by trans-shipment, the practice of
transferring catches to transport vessels for relay to market when
the fishing vessels are refueled and resupplied from islands closer
to the fishing zones. This enables the fishing vessels to fish
Envirowatch, of Hawaii, and WildAid, of San Francisco,
can also claim a share of the credit for the new Palauan marine
Envirowatch founder Carroll Cox first challenged shark and turtle
hunting, and other exploitation of Palaun wildlife, in the early
1990s, as a then-special investigator for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service. His photographic documentation of the trans-shipment of
shark fins by Japanese vessels visiting Hawaii was instrumental in
winning a June 2000 ban on possessing shark fins without a shark
carcass in any U.S. waters. This extended a 1993 ban which had
applied only to the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico.
Seeking to halt shark finning, especially in the western
Pacific, is also a focal issue for WildAid, formed in late 1999 by
Suwanna Gauntlet of the Barbara Delano Foundation, Steven Galster of
the Global Survival Network, Environmental Investigation Agency
cofounder Peter Knights, and Steve Trent, who started the
Environmental Justice Foundation.