Palau unveils plan at UN for shark sanctuary in its territorial waters

25 September 2009
Johnson Toribiong, President of the Republic of Palau

The tiny Pacific Ocean archipelago of Palau told the General Assembly today that it will create the world’s first shark sanctuary to protect endangered species by banning all commercial shark fishing within its territorial waters.

Johnson Toribiong, President of Palau, told the third day of the Assembly’s annual General Debate that his country wanted to provide “a sanctuary for sharks to live and reproduce unmolested in our 237,000 square miles of ocean.” That is an area bigger in size than France.

Speaking at United Nations Headquarters in New York, he urged other countries to join the tiny nation and ban shark fishing in their waters.

“The strength and beauty of sharks is a natural barometer for the health of our oceans,” Mr. Toribiong said.

Palau has already banned the practice of “shark-finning,” where the fins – used for cooking and in traditional cures – are removed from the shark, which is then thrown back into the sea to die.

Mr. Toribiong said rapidly diminishing fish stocks worldwide were an indication that current fishing practices were environmentally unsustainable.

“The odious fishing practice of bottom trawling, where a weighted net is dragged along the sea floor crushing nearly everything in its path, is contributing to the rapid loss of a critical ecosystem, our coral reefs. We have outlawed deep-sea bottom trawling in Palau, but no matter what we do in our own waters, there must be an international solution.”

The President also called for the creation of a regional bloc to conserve tuna resources, to be modelled along the lines of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

“It is anomalous that Palau is experiencing economic difficulty while it sits in the middle of the richest waters in the world. We can no longer stand by while foreign vessels illicitly come to our waters to take our greatest resource, our tuna stocks, without regard to their conservation and without regard for adequate compensation to the island States which rely on this resource.”

 

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