Palau president defends burning illegal fishing boats
Palau's President has defended his country's policy of burning foreign vessels caught illegally fishing in their waters, as his government hopes to send a message to poachers that Palau will not tolerate the illegal plundering of its marine resources.
Palau's President has defended his country's policy of burning foreign vessels caught illegally fishing in its waters.
In the last month Palau law enforcement officers have caught and burned a cluster of Vietnamese fishing boats, incarcerated the ships' captains and sent crew members home.
These vessels join 15 other Vietnamese-flagged boats caught by Palau since 2014,
President Tommy Remengesau told Johnny Blades his government hopes to send a message to poachers that Palau will not tolerate the illegal plundering of its marine resources.
TOMMY REMENGESAU: It's not that we are trying to be mean or anything. I think the intention is very clear for us, that we would do whatever is necessary to clamp down on illegal fishing, and unreported and unregulated fishing. It has become a regular occurrence. It's not an isolated incident. Time and time again, these illegal fishermen continue to come into the waters of Palau. So we feel the burning the ships now becomes a visible message that you cannot hope to return with anything of profit, it would be a loss for you to come to Palau waters.
JOHNNY BLADES: So, in other words, saying your business model is becoming outdated?
TR: Exactly. And the burning also has to do with the fact that there is minimal impact to the ocean. These are wooden boats to begin with, so we empty the fuel and all the oil - just make sure that there's just enough there to light up the boat. Whatever floating debris, we clean up after that.
JB: A lot of the vessels seem to be Vietnamese flagged. Is it something your government can make representations to Vietnam about?
TR: Yes it is our hope also that this message gets to the Vietnamese government so that they can also come to the table for discussions on this. Unfortunately, we have not had any positive response from the government of Vietnam through the embassy in the Philippines. Even the request for translations matters that hopefully the embassy provide to their people, they have not been responsive to that. So we've had to seek our own interpreters from outside the country for these situations.
JB: Palau is creating a new marine sanctuary in its waters. is there danger that the illegal fishers will raid that area as well?
TR: Exactly. And the fact that palau is dinog a very large, marine-protected area with our national sanctuary, is even more reason why we should be very very vigilant in making sure these illegal poachers and pirates do not have access to fish in these areas. It doesn't make sense to have a marine sanctuary that in a way is being protected for the benefit of illegal fishermen. That's the last thing we want. So we really need to do whatever we can and partner with whatever countries we can for marine surveillance, marine enforcement and protection of the integrity of the marine sanctuary.
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