Conservation group teams up with Palau to stop illegal poaching in coastal waters
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — After waging a fierce direct action campaign against Japanese whaling ships in the Southern Ocean for the past seven years, the Sea Sheperd Conservation Society is taking aim at a new target — poachers who are illegally killing sharks in the Palau Shark Sanctuary.
The conservation group’s battle against the Japanese whaling fleet was depicted in Whale Wars, a high seas docudrama broadcast on the Animal Planet television channel.
Sea Shepherd’s new mission of guarding Palau’s shark sanctuary is formalized in a memorandum of understanding between the group and Palau’s Division of Marine Law Enforcement.
Under the agreement, Sea Shepherd will send a vessel to patrol Palau’s territorial waters against illegal fishing activity and assist marine law enforcement officers and facilitate prosecution of offenders to the fullest extent of the law. The relationship between Sea Shepherd and Palau is defined as a “partnership in the preservation of marine life.”
“President Johnson Toribiong has led the world in taking action to protect sharks, and his establishment of a shark and marine mammal sanctuary is a call to action for other nations to defend diminishing populations of marine species,” said Captain Paul Watson. “Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is honored to be working with President Toribiong and Palau’s Council of Chiefs, and we are proud to be a part of protecting the incredibly beautiful and biologically important islands of the Republic of Palau,” he added.
Watson, together with Dermot Keane, founder of the conservation organization Palau Shark Sanctuary, made a proposal to President Toribiong to offer the assistance of Sea Shepherd to intervene against illegal fishing activities, particularly the practice of shark finning, within Palau’s territorial waters.
Keane, who signed the Memorandum of Agreement as a witness, welcomed the historic partnership with Sea Shepherd.
“This is a major milestone for Palau’s conservation efforts,” Keane said. “It clearly sends the right message to the world: Our nation is serious about the enforcement of our marine protection laws, and with the help of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, smaller nations can certainly make a big difference.”
President Toribiong and Palau’s Council of Chiefs all agreed their country needs the assistance of Sea Shepherd to protect Palau’s spectacular, yet fragile natural marine resources. In September 2009, President Toribiong addressed the United Nations and declared Palau’s territorial waters as the world’s first official shark sanctuary.
In August 2010, the President recognized protection of all marine mammals in the same designated sanctuary. Despite an increasing poaching problem in Palau’s waters, President Toribiong has not wavered in his support for conservation. This joint effort between Palau’s government and Sea Shepherd begins the next phase of President Toribiong’s conservation plan: in-field enforcement.
“This agreement is exemplary of a concerned government working in collaboration with a Non-Governmental Organization like Sea Shepherd. It reinforces that small island nations are at the forefront of oceanic conservation and are more willing to take matters into their own hands before it is too late to do anything about the loss of marine life and habitat,” said Sea Shephard CEO Steve Roest.
Sea Shepherd has a long history of working in direct collaboration with national governments to oppose poaching operations. Its first such agreement was in the Galapagos Islands, where Sea Shepherd is now in its 11th year of working in partnership with the Galapagos National Park and the Ecuadorian Environmental Police to protect the waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, Summit County news Tagged: | biodiversity, Environment, Galapagos Islands, marine conservation, Palau shark sanctuary, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, sharks, Summit County News