Current Event: Palau Vs. the Poachers

By: Ian Urbina

This article appeared in the New York Times, and it brings to light the struggles and accomplishments of the small nation of Palau against the onslaught of the poaching industry, an nation of archipelago islands. Their use of new technologies, outside help in locating poaching vessels in timely manners, so that the poachers can be caught within their jurisdiction, and their willingness to protect their protected waters is aspiring.

Without a military, the poor nation of Palau has only a handful of police officers to protect its people and its waters, and it has one deep sea vessel, the Remeliik, to run down poachers and pirates. The Remeliik alone patrols 230,000 miles of protected Palauen ocean, and is only able to do so with outside help from organizations such as Greenpeace, satellite feeds, and two Australian Navy officers who are on loan from the Australian government.

This article documented the seizing of a poaching vessel through the help of all of these parties including the help of a satellite analyst who was in West Virrginia analyzing satellite feeds. The successful capture of the Taiwanese ship fishing in Palauen waters proved to be well worth it, as Palauen officers confiscated several hundred shark fins.

In Palau, the successful switch from a fishing economy to a ecotourism economy has impacted the nation in positive ways, and can lead to small nation out of its poor state. The realization in Palauen government officials that the value of sharks alive heavily outweighs the value of them dead was a major driving factor in making the world’s first shark sanctuary. However, the threat to Palau does not stop at poaching, due to the nations water housing some of the most diverse population of sea creatures and corals, ocean acidification, rising sea surface temperatures, mega-cyclones, and a massive expanse of floating trash.

The article also delves into the issues with legal fishing, and how the increase in efficiency of catching fish is leading to them becoming scarce in areas they used to flourish. Designating more marine conservation areas, and being able to monitor and protect those areas from poaching is going to play a large part in the survivor-ship of many fish species, and ensure that the ocean stays healthy for years to come.

-Ashley Tims

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