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ebonites

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  1. Due to significant push back against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) & the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the public comment period on the proposed implementation ruling titled "Relationship of Regulations With Current State Rules" of the Shark Conservation Act has been granted a final extension until July 31st. A cherry-picked, narrow interpretation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act's "conservation and management" provisions is being applied in NMFS-NOAA's implementation rule, avoiding broader conservation considerations for sharks. Although NOAA is a scientific agency, a deliberate policy choice -- expanding U.S. participation in the shark fin trade while killing all existing and future state & territorial fin bans -- is being promoted with the guiding hand of commercial interests despite the continuing decimation of many shark species. The importance of getting involved to counter this attempt to erase all the hard-fought gains achieved in U.S. shark conservation -- in American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawaii, California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, and New York (once signed) -- cannot be overstated. You can submit your comment for NOAA to eliminate language that preempts state and territorial shark fin bans by using the bullet points and instructions offered in Shark Saver's Action Alert: https://www.sharksavers.org/en/blogs-news/shark-savers-blog/action-alert-stop-the-us-federal-government-from-interfering-with-state-shark-fin-bans/
  2. Guam's Shark Bill Passes The bill making it illegal to possess or sell shark fins and manta parts in Guam was passed yesterday by unanimous vote. A hearty thanks to all who wrote to Guam's senators to help influence this bill's passage, with a particular thanks to Tim Rock and Stefanie Brendl for their on-site participation. Tim Rock summed up the significance of this victory: "With Palau declaring its waters a shark sanctuary in 2009, Yap having its water a manta ray sanctuary since 2008, Guam and the Nothern Mariana Islands banning fin trade, this creates a huge corridor in the western Pacific stretching 1300+ miles from north to south from Helen Reef in far southern Palau to Farralon de Medina in the northern CNMI and across four countries that now prosecute those involved in the non-sustainable shark fin trade. Hawaii in the east central Pacific, a US state, has the first such law on its books passed last year. Thus, this is a real regional victory for the western Pacific nations and their marine resources." The in-depth story on the bill and all necessary contact information to thank Guam's legislators (and to write Guam's governor to insure that the bill is signed into law) can be found on Tim's Guam & Micronesia Dive Travel blog.
  3. Japan has officially recalled the whaling fleet From the SSCS site: Thursday, February 17, 2011 VSO Day Victory in the Southern Ocean Day for the Whales "It's official – the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is over for this season and the whalers did not even take 10% of their quota. Sea Shepherd estimates that over 900 whales have been saved this year."
  4. A very significant development: "Whaling: Beginning of the End?" The future is still murky, but -- for now -- several hundred whales will not be subjected to a terrible fate in the Southern Ocean. That fact alone is wonderful news.
  5. December 21, 2010 The Shark Conservation Act of 2009 is now officially U.S. law. The U.S. House of Representatives rapidly passed the Shark Conservation Act today.
  6. The U.S. Shark Conservation Act of 2009 was finally passed today, Dec. 20, 2010, in the U.S. Senate! This bill's passage now closes a massive loophole in the Magnuson-Stevens Act concerning shark finning. All vessels in U.S. territorial waters, no matter how they are designated, are now prohibited from transferring shark fins at sea. All sharks must be landed with fins attached. The Shark Conservation Act will return to the House of Representatives for a final vote to accept the Senate version before it can be signed into law. While a substitute amendment was included by the Senate, no hurdle in the House is anticipated. A special thanks to all who wrote, faxed, and called their senators to help influence passage of this vital legislation for shark conservation. ~ Edward Dorson CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS – ENVIRONMENT Senate Passes Bill to Curb Practice of Shark Finning By Charlene Carter | Dec. 20, 2010 The Senate on Monday passed legislation aimed at stopping fishermen from removing fins from sharks and discarding the carcasses. The fins are a delicacy in many Asian countries and this harvesting practice has contributed to declines in shark populations. Passed by unanimous consent, the bill would prohibit ships from having custody, control or possession of shark fins without the corresponding carcass. "Shark finning has fueled massive population declines and irreversible disruption of our oceans," Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said in a statement. "Finally we've come through with a tough approach to tackle this serious threat to our marine life." The bill also would allow the Commerce secretary to identify and list nations that have fishing vessels but have not adopted a regulatory program for shark conservation similar to the United States. The House passed the bill in March 2009. Under the unanimous consent agreement, the Senate also adopted a substitute amendment by Kerry and Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, that added the text of two other bills that would make corrections and clarifications to fisheries laws. As amended, the bill also includes provisions from S 2856 that would clarify the status of the U.S.-Canada Transboundary Resources Sharing Understanding and give the National Marine Fisheries Service greater flexibility in the management of groundfish stocks covered by the agreement. The substitute amendment also added the text of S 2871, which would make technical corrections to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Implementation Act (PL 109-479) and change eligibility requirements for individuals serving as commissioners.
  7. Walt- Thanks to you as well as all the other "star throwers" for making a difference with these recent hard-fought victories: The Star Thrower A man was walking along a beach where thousands of starfish had been washed up on the shore. He noticed a boy picking the starfish one by one and gently throwing them back into the sea. The man observed the boy for a few minutes and then asked what he was doing. The boy replied that he was returning the starfish to the water, otherwise they would die under the sun while the tide was going out. The man asked how saving a few, when so many were doomed, would make any difference whatsoever? After listening politely, the boy picked up a starfish and threw it back into the surf and said "Made a difference for that one." The man left the boy and went home, troubled with what the boy had said. The next morning he returned to the beach and spent the rest of the day helping the boy throw starfish into the sea. ~ adapted from "The Star Thrower" by Loren Eiseley
  8. A victorious veto in Palau This past autumn, the UN announcement of Palau as a National Shark Sanctuary was posted as "Historic Sea Change" in this forum. Now more positive change has taken place in Palau since President Toribiong's UN proclamation: On January 13th, Palau Senate Bill No. 8-50 - a destructive purse seining/tax exemption bill that was passed by Palau's National Congress - was vetoed by President Toribiong. The president said: "this bill does not promote the implementation of national objectives set forth in the Constitution with regards to conserving a resourceful natural environment or promoting the national economy." He added that "exempting certain companies from paying fish export tax contradicts the government's policy." He also proposed a fisheries summit to be held in late February in order to make sound fishing policy more beneficial for Palau and all of Micronesia, with the participation of neighboring Pacific countries. A recap on the bill: Palau's Senate Bill No. 8-50 would have prevented Palauans from receiving tax export revenue for all catches along with assigning General Santos City in the Philippines as the new transshipment port (presently Malakal harbor in Palau). Without the tax collection incentive and with catches avoiding Palau's port, all Palauan regulatory oversight would have been removed...including preventing rampant shark fishing/finning, curtailing endangered species harvest, and control of overshooting quotas. Palau's President Toribiong has now proved himself as having true leadership abilities, as well as a vision capable of seeing Palau's "sanctuary" as a promise he has vowed to fulfill -- beyond just a metaphor of stewardship with his announcement at the UN on September 25th. Although vetoed, SB No. 8-50 can still become law by a 2/3rd overriding vote in Palau's National Congress (the OEK) within 30 days of its return to the Senate and the House of Delegates. With this possibility, I urge that people lend their support to the president's stance. All congratulatory messages backing President Toribiong's veto can be sent to: President Toribiong, President of the Republic of Palau: rop.president@palaunet.com and Cc'd to: The Senate of the Eigth Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK): senate@palaunet.com Speaker of the House of Delegates: oekspeaker@palaunet.com House Committee on Maritime and Fisheries: hod.clerk@gmail.com Palau Chamber of Commerce: pcoc@palaunet.com Palau Conservation Society: pcs@palaunet.com Belau Tourism Association: bta@palaunet.com Palau Visitors Authority: pva@visit-palau.com
  9. News Corporation / Fox Entertainment Group has a majority ownership of National Geographic Ventures (the taxable arm of the Society) and does most of the marketing and distribution. I believe any such association can result in tainting their environmental and educational initiatives, particularly with the National Geographic Channel.
  10. Steve I'm glad that this slob's blood lust grabbed your attention, but your concluding implication of "how do we hold up our heads?" is something that I'd ask you to further consider. Our assumptions are sometimes so familiar to us that they can escape detection as fitting a harmful pattern. I'm not saying this is you personally; but I hear variations of this so often that I think it should be addressed. If this "pot calling the kettle black" stance remains a prevalent attitude, then we're not just stuck - we're screwed. Whether by spear, hook, or net; unsustainable acquisition is still the operating principle and our oceans are slated for functional extinction in less than 40 years. Nearly all nations can easily be condemned for their own citizens' atrocities against nature, but claiming membership into some collective national guilt as a reason to postpone positive individual action becomes a form of consent that condones more devastation. Any meaningful stance regarding species preservation, stewardship, etc. shouldn't be influenced by your nation's acts. We're global citizens first. Each person's actions have to originate as a member of nothing more than as a member of humankind - a species capable of consideration for the greater good - before any consideration of nationality. Everyone has an equal entitlement to safeguard the land and oceans from any bullying predators who set themselves up as deciders of any wild creature's fate. Whether protecting these still threatened Florida Goliaths or Palau's Bumpheads and Napoleons...these animals don't check passports; they just want and need to live. Any cultural imperative is trumped by the moral imperative for a species right to continue.
  11. ".....The propose culling (because that is what it is, not for scientific research) of 400 Goliaths is strictly political move to appease a group of people who have been beating on the FWC Commissioners. It is knee jerk move. The scientific community have most of the data, but they haven't been able to assimilate all of it. Furthermore, from what I got from FWC fishery staff, they are in no way ready, or able to handle delivery of even a fraction of the propose number of fish the Gulf Council is trying green light with the Sate and Feds. So where would these fish be taken, most likely the nearest seafood market. So much for their Scientific collection campaign." I'll lend some more credibility to Walt Sterns' claim: When the GG issue surfaced the first time around, I got in touch with Walt & wrote up the original petition for DPG that still seems to be getting used (with some transformations). Anyway, in doing research to see which force was pushing this legislation, I wandered over to the "dark side" to see who/what was driving this. The following notes comes from trolling spearboard.com at that time (be sure not to miss the science-based mentality of the last mastermind): http://www.spearboard.com/showthread.php?t...Grouper+Harvest [bold fonts are mine] Interested In A Limited Goliath Grouper Harvest? Here's How We Get One: post #1 A fellow dive club member just called me last week about an acquaintance he has with a very high ranking official in the FWC. In their conversations, this person has expressed the desire to get diver-based info on goliath grouper populations, and behavior around the state. He wants to take this info to form a springboard for a very possible limited harvest sometime in the near future. I just got off the phone with this gentleman today, and although he declined that he be identified due to not wanting to get barraged with phone calls/emails, he is very interested in what we have to say. Ultimately, both he, and several other key personnel would like for a limited harvest along the lines of the alligator lottery to occur. A limited number of kill tags would be given out to those that apply, and for a fee would allow that fisherman to harvest a goliath. This is provided that the fisherman report the info regarding the catch, and surrender the filleted carcass for scientific study. What he asking is for anecdotal info, photos, and video. Please reply on this thread in non-inflammatory manner, and provide your feedback. I am going to email him the link to this thread so that he, and his associates at the FWC may read, and see. They want to know: *Where are you seeing them *How many *What size *Their behaviors especially if they are aggressive *What you have seen them eat *If you have seen increase in their populations *Anything else pertinent to determining whether a limited harvest can work. Let's represent our spearfishing community, and flex our muscle in a constructive way. Thanks. AJ Suarez ***** post#3 AJ- This idea sure sounds farmiliar...Wait!! I know. It was my idea. And it is moving forward. Good to hear it from another perspective. The Goliath harvest was discussed at the reef fish advisory panel meeting and also at the last Gulf Council Meeting. The FRA is on it. Let's all put up some information here. When the time comes, I'll let you all know where to direct your emails and phone calls. If you haven't joined the FRA, now is the time. To review, the Fishing Rights Alliance is: For moving the longlines out to 50 fathoms (at least) For equal treatment of spearguns as fishing tackle For the limited harvest of Goliath Grouper Responsible for SAVING YOUR HOGFISH LIMITS Against the EXTREME reduction of the bag limit for Red grouper due to its disproportionate impact on recreational anglers. JOIN THE FRA TODAY!!! Join the Fishing Rights Alliance ****** [Also, response from: http://www.spearboard.com/showthread.php?t=47996] Does everyone know that any moderator has the capability to run an IP search and find out who and where the posts are coming from? Is everyone aware that this website is monitored each and every day by State and Federal law enforcement officials? Is everyone aware that it is read by members of the Gulf Council and the South Atlantic Council? Is everyone aware that it is read by the Florida Willdlife commisioners? Is everyone aware that it is read by the National Marine Fisheries Service? Is everyone aware it is read every single day by members of the Ocean Conservancy and other environmental extremist groups who are constantly trying to find ammunition to use against the sport of Spearfishing?? Does everyone know that Spearboard posts have already been used to tarnish spearfisherman and the sport! PLEASE! Think about what you post!! Spearboard is not some little place that you can be anonymous and chat with a couple buddies anymore. Its read worldwide by a great many people, many of which can effect the sport of Spearfishing a great deal. WWW.SPEARFISHINGSPUC.ORG WWW.DIVEFSDA.COM *** Re: The Law may hunt you down for showing illegal fish activity on the Internet! Quote: Originally Posted by inletsurf Save your gay ass moaning for the douche freediving forums and man the f**k up if you want to play over here, because this forum here ain't nothing but guys legally killing fish and enjoying every minute of it, from the shot, to the blood spatter on the gunnel. You hypocritical, judgemental douche bags from the west coast that have a problem with this post can suck this big 'ol florida d**k because thats how we roll. Open wide, bitches. Kick ass bro!!!
  12. Thanks for your words of appreciation. Look for a PM from me to arrive within 24 hours. I'll be sending you a more trimmed down petition letter (with a credit) for you to share on Facebook. I've given this some thought - perhaps this can be more than a cut and paste petition (if it isn't already) - at least here among divers and UW photographers. For those who wish to take a writing campaign a step further, it's best to use what I've written as a working framework to be personalized by separate individuals. Please put your name in the introductory sentence. Feel free to add a passage of your own experiences on the reef, and what these particular species means to you in terms of wanting to come to Palau. In order to best influence Palau's lawmakers to withdraw this destructive legislation, email your letters with your voice calling for maintaining their total protection. Choose the fonts, text color, and layout the way you would want it to appear. You can edit out any passages that may seem redundant, or alter the order of paragraphs as long as it still makes sense. A few moments of customization makes the letters powerful individual expressions. Letters with this kind of customization are accorded more respect than obviously cloned form letters. The effort it takes is a little bit larger. But the potential for making an actual difference will be magnified significantly.
  13. Palau Napoleon & Bumphead Petition: Please use this revised petition instead of my previous one re Palau's SB No. 8-56 (which sanctions the taking and selling of Napoleon Wrasse and Bumphead parrotfish). I've taken out some details better used in protest against Palau's SB 8-50): Subject: An Appeal for the Withdrawal of Bill No. 8-56 from: [your name, country] to: - Johnson Toribiong, President of the Republic of Palau rop.president@palaunet.com and: Members of the House of Delegates of the Eighth Olbiil Era Kelulau; House Committee on Maritime and Fisheries; Delegate Tmewang Rengulbai, Chair - HOD Speaker of the House oek-speaker@palaunet.com - HOD Clerk hod.clerk@ymail.com Cc'd to: - Palau Conservation Society pcs@palaunet.com - Palau Chamber of Commerce pcoc@palaunet.com - Belau Tourism Association bta@palaunet.com - Palau Visitors Authority pva@visit-palau.com - Pelau Shark Sanctuary sharksanctuary@gmail.com Dear President Toribiong, Chairman Rengulbai, and Members of the House of Delegates of the Eighth Olbiil Era Kelulau: I'm writing in protest to the Palau legislation that was passed as Senate Bill No. 8-56. This bill proposes to remove Palau's present total ban in the taking and selling of adult Bumphead parrotfish and Napoleon wrasse with a three month open taking and selling season. This is an ecological and economical tragedy in the making. Although Palau has set a new environmental benchmark with its creation as the world's first national Shark Sanctuary, its Senate has passed Bill No. 8-56 in its third and final reading. SB No. 8-56 is now before the House of Delegates in the House Committee on Maritime and Fisheries. The next session can begin with the House's second (and a possible final third) reading within this month. Although SB No. 8-44 (the bill to repeal the ban on shark fishing and finning) is now withdrawn, 8-56 remains as a contradiction to the pledge of stewardship that Palau pronounced before all the world with President Toribiong's UN announcement. This has been distressing news for the 75% of all the tourists that travel to Palau to dive and snorkel. The iconic Napoleon wrasse and Bumphead parrotfish are premier attractions in Palau's waters, equal to, if not surpassing, the patrolling sharks in popularity. Napoleons and Bumpheads are seen as living treasures to divers, and they are as much a signature for Palau as are the sharks. Divers and snorkelers repeatedly experiencing these amazing species is a thousand-fold more profitable than their one-time sale as some dish to consume. By permitting the sale of these extremely valuable fish, this bill would encourage the highly lucrative live fish export trade (priced as much as $2000 at destination). This is in direct opposition to the no-sale provision of this species in Senate Bill No. 7-64 of 2005. As the average annual Palauan income is approximately $7000, this bill invites a great incentive for unimpeded plunder, particularly during spawning aggregations that can occur during the open season. Capturing, not killing, would be the chief method of "taking" these fish. This bill wrongly uses Palauan tradition as a justification to what will be an aid to the black market trade in live Napoleon wrasse and Bumphead parrotfish (infamously known as the "blue gold" trade). The "local sale" allowance in the bill facilitates this, where the outcome will result in intensive black market smuggling for these species to feed the insatiable demand for live fish in other nation's expensive restaurants. Because of this "blue gold" trade, these species are greatly depleted globally and Palau's population is a fragile target. In 2006, Palau wisely declared a total ban on the taking of these species until a scientifically conducted non-detrimental finding could recommend any change from their fully protected status. Incredibly, this legal requirement has been completely ignored in the Senate's bill. Another consideration in sancioning the taking of the remaining population of these fish is the typical method of easy capture using cyanide, which kills all the surrounding reef and other aquatic life where it is used. Even where cyanide isn't used, without these grazing fish, the reef is much more likely to being smothered by algae; particularly while stressed by a warming event like the El Nino in 1998. One third of your reefs were severely damaged, yet the "grazers" were able to help restore the corals before they perished forever. Napoleon wrasse are also of great benefit as one of only a few animals that prey upon the reef-destroying Crown of Thorns seastar, now present in several areas of Palau. The negative economic repercussions from prospective visitors can't be overstated with this standing bill. Those who wanted to depend on Palau as a desirable dive oasis are now feeling betrayed with the Senate's passage of SB No. 8-56. Great promise was instilled with Palau's UN declaration as the world's first national Shark Sanctuary. I respectfully ask that you use your best judgment to continue Palau's momentum in its bold pursuit of respite and restoration. Please allow Senate Bill No. 8-56 to be stopped from causing further harm by withdrawing it in the House Committee on Maritime and Fisheries. Sincerely, [your name, country]
  14. While I really want to go after Palau's disastrous SB No. 8-50 as well - which just passed through its second reading on September 29th (see my previous post, ebonites #3) - perhaps it's best to split them up: Please feel free to use this as a petition text (whole or as a resource) to protest SB No. 8-56, the Palauan bill seeking to allow the taking and selling of Napoleon wrasse and Bumphead parrotfish. I believe if you've spent just a few seconds under the turreted inspection of a Napoleon wrasse, you'd be compelled to prevent this bill's passage. Consider the inhumane aspect as well: in order to prove the Napoleon's freshness to the indifferent diner, these fish are often filleted in a manner to keep them alive as long as possible...with the still-beating heart on display for the well-heeled customer's satisfaction. to: President of the Republic of Palau President Toribiong • rop.president@palaunet.com and Members of the House of Delegates of the Eighth Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) HOD Speaker of the House • oek-speaker@palaunet.com HOD Clerk • hod.clerk@ymail.com Cc'd to: Palau Conservation Society • pcs@palaunet.com Palau Chamber of Commerce • pcoc@palaunet.com Belau Tourism Association • bta@palaunet.com Palau Visitors Authority • pva@visit-palau.com Palau Shark Sanctuary • sharksanctuary@gmail.com Dear President Toribiong and Members of the House of Delegates of the Eighth Olbiil Era Kelulau, Unfortunately, while Palau has become a shining beacon to the world as the first national Shark Sanctuary, the Palau Senate has passed Bill No. 8-56 in its third and final reading. This bill allows the removal of the complete ban in the taking and selling of Napoleon wrasse and Bumphead parrotfish. SB No. 8-56 is now before the House of Delegates in the House Committee on Maritime and Fisheries chaired by Delegate Tmewang Rengulbai. The next HOD session convenes with its second reading on the bill sometime this month. While Senate Bill No. 8-44 (which sought the repeal of the ban on shark fishing and finning) is now officially withdrawn, Senate Bill No. 8-56 is an ongoing assault on the spirit of conservation that Palau demonstrated with its Shark Sanctuary. This has been very disturbing news for the 75% of all tourists that come to Palau as divers and/or snorkelers. The charismatic Napoleon wrasse and Bumphead parrotfish are magnificent denizens of Palau's reefs, equal if not surpassing the patrolling sharks in their popularity with the visiting divers. The Napoleons have an air of splendor about them, and are often perceived as being the most "thoughtful" of fish. Divers and snorkelers repeatedly experiencing these living underwater treasures is a thousand times more profitable than the selling of these species for consumption. Senate Bill No. 8-56 seeks to remove Palau's present ban in taking and selling adult Bumphead parrotfish (kemedukl) and Napoleon wrasse (maml) by proposing a three month open fishing season. There's absolutely no environmental assessment to justify this. These fish are endangered worldwide and Palau's population is particularly fragile. In fact, in 2006, Palau stipulated a total ban on the taking of these fish until a thorough non-detrimental finding could recommend altering their protected status. By permitting the sale of these extremely valuable fish (up to US$2000 - priced at destination), this bill would encourage the highly lucrative live fish export trade. This is in direct opposition to the no-sale provision in Senate Bill No. 7-64 of 2005. As the average annual Palauan income is approximately US$7000, this bill invites a great incentive for unimpeded plunder, particularly during spawning aggregations. It's noteworthy that Palau's Senate didn't bother with any such sale provision in a similarly worded companion bill, SB No. 8-55, which allows for a hunting season of the Micronesian Imperial Pigeon (Belochel), with a current local black market price of US$15-20. With this bill as law, capturing, not spearing, would be the chief method of "taking" these fish. This bill uses a "Palauan custom" justification to what's really an aid to the black market trade in live Napoleon wrasse and Bumphead parrotfish (also known as the "blue gold" trade due to the coloration of these species). The "local sale" allowance in the bill can facilitate unimpeded transfer to the airport in Koror, where the airport's security firm* would be able to ignore these live fish going out as cargo. These extremely rare species would be air shipped alive to the restaurants of Singapore, Tokyo, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. * Kuniwo Nakamura - a man whose fishing firm, Kuniyoshi Fishing Co., is historically linked to tax-evasion, money laundering, shark finning, poaching, falsifying catch records, and illegally unloading catches offshore and overseas - has ownership of the Belau Airport Security Company, a firm that was given a five year no-bid contract last December to conduct all security at Palau's airport. Thus, Kuniwo Nakamura essentially has control of all air shipping activity in the Republic of Palau. Along with devastating the remaining population of these fish, the typical method of cyanide capture would destroy all surrounding reef and other aquatic animals where it's deployed. Even where cyanide isn't used, without these "grazing" fish, the reef is much more prone to being smothered by algae. Napoleon wrasse are also one of only a few aquatic species that are vitally needed to prey upon the reef-eating Crown of Thorns starfish, now present in five areas of Palau. As a diver, I'll always be stupefied by those that have no concern for our finite environment on our island planet in space, particularly when they're island people. Such gross short-sightedness with the Senate's passage of SB No. 8-56 can be seen as a clear breech in Palau's ecological and economical commitment to its new declaration as the world's first national Shark Sanctuary. Please allow thoughtfulness and economic sense to promote the continuing example of Palau's leadership as stewards for the sea by withdrawing Senate Bill No. 8-56 in the House Committee on Maritime and Fisheries. Sincerely, [your name, country]
  15. Loftus Right now, we - all of us - need to be that organization you're asking for. This can be done without any heavy lifting: An urgently needed benefit to Palau right now lies in a campaign of emailing congratulatory letters to Palau's President, wherein he'd also be asked to issue an immediate Executive Order to form an environmental task force to assess the detrimental effects of Senate Bills' No. 8-50 and No. 8-56. These bills as law will have severe negative impact upon his vision of Palau as a sanctuary and as a leader in ocean conservancy. At this time, Palau requires the direct action of halting these two destructive bills within the next two weeks (before the October session of the OEK; Palau's National Congress). • Background: I've been active on Palau environmental issues since March. Those who have been reading and posting in this conservation forum since early spring may recall that Palau was initially red-flagged with news of mounting legislative atrocities introduced by Palau's newly elected Senate. I'm referring to: 1) Palau's Senate Bill No. 8-44 (which sought to repeal Palau's existing ban on shark finning), 2) Senate Bill No. 8-50 (which exempts Palauans from 5 years of tax export revenue for all catches and assigns General Santos City in the Philippines as the new transshipment port), and 3) Senate Bill No. 8-56 (which introduces the taking and selling of Napoleon wrasse and Bumphead parrotfish in Palau's waters). • To date: The most immediate positive outcome of the Palau President's UN declaration was the assured death for the pro-finning Senate Bill, SB No. 8-44. However, SB No. 8-50 and SB No. 8-56 are still very much alive. Both bills are soon going into further readings in the mid-October OEK session (three readings are required for passage both in the Senate and then the House of Delegates). If passed in both the Senate and the House, they then become law with the President's signature. If vetoed, they can still become law by a 2/3rd overriding vote in the OEK. Despite Palau's recent UN declaration, Senate Bills' No. 8-50 and 8-56 are still viable, and the result of their passage into law would be even more devastating than the passage of the now defunct SB No. 8-44. It's well known that the lack of monitoring and enforcement resources in Palau provides incentive for illegal plunder of its EEZ, but Palau must also get its legislative Houses in order for such measures to achieve any prospect of restoration and replenishment. While it's true that Palau is victimized by foreign fishers and poachers, many of Palau's problems with marine resource management lie within its own corrupt officials, compromised and/or uninformed OEK members, and Palau's horrendous homegrown commercial fishing fleet. President Toribiong's UN announcement sets a new high as a manifesto, but his aspirations would rapidly unravel if these two bills become law. • Senate Bill No. 8-50 specifically allows for five years of export tax exemption for all fish caught (that would normally go to Palau's Treasury), and assigns General Santos City in the Philippines as the major designated transshipment port for catches (presently Malakal harbor in Palau). Without the tax collection incentive and with catches avoiding Palau's port, all Palauan regulatory oversight is removed...including preventing rampant shark fishing/finning, curtailing endangered species harvest, and control of overshooting quotas. That's the equivilent of institutionalizing the out-of-sight practice of transshipment at sea for a full five years. Some figures: The processing facilities in General Santos are the region's largest; employing over 120,000 people. At present depletion levels, the region's yellowfin populations will collapse within 3 years. The list goes on... This is a terribly unjust and destructive bill, rigged over months of meetings between Palauan and Filipino fishing interests as well as with political figures. It's particularly worrisome in that it's sponsored by Joel Toribiong, the brother of Palau's President. I should mention here that I heard President Johnson Toribiong speak while at the UN. I believe he truly wants a legacy of environmental stewardship. During the Q. & A. session, I realized he was still an island person inside who understood the meaning of a finite environment. • Senate Bill No. 8-56 has already passed in all three readings by Palau's Senate by July 28th and has been moved into the House of Delegates where it may pass its second reading as soon as October13th. SB 8-56 seeks to remove Palau's present ban in taking and selling the already threatened adult Napoleon wrasse and Bumphead parrotfish by proposing a three month open fishing season. There's absolutely no environmental assessment to justify this. In fact, in 2006, Palau stipulated a total ban on the taking of these fish until a thorough non-detrimental finding could recommend altering their protected status; yet it's simply being ignored. The bill uses a "Palauan custom" excuse and a "local sale" provision to essentially legalize the extremely lucrative "blue gold" trade in live Napoleon wrasse and Bumphead parrotfish. The sale allowance in the bill can facilitate unimpeded transfer to the airport in Koror, where the airport's security would be able to ignore these fish going out as live cargo. In a previous post, I pointed out that former Palau President Kuniwo Nakamura -- a man whose fishing firm, Kuniyoshi Fishing Co., is historically linked to shark finning, tax-evasion, money-laundering, poaching, falsifying catch records, and illegally unloading catches offshore and overseas -- has ownership of the Belau Airport Security Company, a firm that was given a five year no-bid contract last December to control all security at Palau's airport. • I wish there was some simpler, cyber "1- click" answer with this present situation, but only Senate Bill No. 8-44 lent itself to that approach. The pro-finning aspect of SB No. 8-44 was so obvious that I believe it was soon allowed to be a sacrificial diversion while the outrageously damaging SB No. 8-50 could be passed unseen. SB No. 8-56 achieves cover under the disingenuous guise of preserving tradition and culture. It's vital for Palau to keep up the maintenance of its extraordinary reefs and to protect its fisheries from the schemes that that can only benefit a cabal of corrupt officials and reckless fishing firms at the permanent expense of the ocean and the islanders that depend on it. The vision of Palau's President with his UN manifesto can only be realized if we all become the momentum in getting back from the abyss. • All congratulatory messages to President Toribiong - including your request for a rapid Executive Order to form an environmental task force to assess Senate Bills' No. 8-50 and No. 8-56 - stated from your own unique perspective and experience - can be sent to: rop.president@palaunet.com; and Cc'd to: pcoc@palaunet.com, bta@palaunet.com, and sharksanctuary@gmail.com Thanks, Edward Dorson
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