A view of Palau waters from the Republic of Palau's National Congress.
Palau, because of its beach and scenery, reminds me so much of the Philippines. Interestingly, similarities between the two countries range from vegetation to countries that ruled them. But what sets Palau different from the Philippines is that they have been successful in maintaining the health of their marine environment.
It is now the main reason why people come here… to see things underwater that you cannot see anymore anywhere else, including the Philippines.
Yesterday, I witnessed the signing of a memorandum between Greenpeace and Palau for a joint surveillance and enforcement exercise inside Palau’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the Pacific high seas.
President of the Republic of Palau, Johnson Toribiong, signs the fishing enforcement agreement in search for illegal fishing in Palau waters.
Palau’s President Johnson Toribiong was very keen in sending a clear message that Palau will not tolerate illegal fishing. For him, illegal fishing not only takes food, but also much needed revenue from small island Pacific countries. Greenpeace on the other hand has been actively working with Pacific Island governments to steer fishing toward sustainability and combat the most destructive fishing methodologies such as the use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in purse seine fishing.
At last year’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting, the Philippines has negotiated that 36 of its vessels resume purse seine fishing using FADs in the Pacific high seas. The Philippine government is saying that there will be 40 FADs on each boat. That’s 1,440 FADs! How much juvenile tuna bycatch will that translate to? I have also found out here that 100 smaller outrigger boats from the Philippines are negotiating access to fish for tuna in Palau waters. That means that the tuna in the Philippines have disappeared! Why can’t the Philippines focus instead on taking care of its own marine environment rather that plundering the oceans in other places?
The Pacific tuna stocks are being depleted at an alarming rate. The Philippines should exert more conservation measures in taking care of our marine environment and our territorial waters in order to have oceans that can sustain the needs not only of the Filipinos but of Pacific Islanders as well.
Cristina Nitafan is a volunteer at Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Philippines. She is currently on board the Esperanza as a blogger. You can also follow her updates on Twitter via @cr3ng.