After efforts were first concentrated on closing all of Palau’s waters to commercial fishing, the country has settled at 80 percent for a National Marine Sanctuary, and has now stated that in the remaining part of its EEZ, only free-school commercial tuna fishing will be permitted.
The amended Act from the people of Palau, if fully implemented, will make the nation’s waters the first totally FAD-free fishing zone in the tuna-rich PNA region, which is home to the world’s largest MSC certified free-school purse seine skipjack and yellowfin fishery.
In updated regulations, the country notes that in order to protect Palau’s natural environment and natural resources, “it is appropriate to create the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, whereby eighty percent of Palau’s EEZ is a no-take area, protected from all exploitation.”
The document continues that domestic fishing will be limited to twenty percent of Palau’s EEZ, and the commercial export of fish from the country will be prohibited, with a limited exception for free-school purse seining in the Domestic Fishing Zone.
This ultimately means that foreign vessels fishing on FADs will be restricted from the entire EEZ, marking Palau as the first PNA nation to take such a bold, conservational move.
It is stated in the amended Act that currently, Palau’s fish stocks, including tuna and other bycatch, are being depleted by foreign fishing vessels, from which the nation “receives relatively little revenue in proportion to the value of the asset.”
The reforms noted will be implemented over a wind-down period, and by January 1st 2020, the National Marine Sanctuary will be fully functioning, the Act states. Palau’s EEZ covers an area of more than 600,000 square kilometers, and a chunk the size of Spain is now seeing all commercial fishing totally phased out.