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Palau Sends Tough Message Vs. Illegal Fishing, Will Burn More Vietnamese Boats

Apparently, the message was not clear enough, so Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. wants to make it clearer. At today’s press press conference, Remengasau announced that the Vietnamese boats apprehended last month will be burned.

Remengesau said the plan to dispose of the boats is to either give one to the community or burn the rest.

On April 16, Palau law enforcement captured two Vietnamese “blue boats” suspected of illegally fishing in Palau waters.

Two more Vietnamese boats captured in Palau's Exclusive Economic Zone. Photo by Ongerung Kambes Kesolei

The blue boats were apprehended near Helen’s Reef located at the southern part of Palau’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The boats were escorted back to Koror by Remeliik and arrived on April 22.

For the first time, Palau utilized a local-owned aircraft, Pacific Mission Aviation, as air support to police the island nation’s EEZ.

Although Remeliik only apprehended two Vietnamese fishing vessels, aerial surveillance spotted at least two Filipino fishing vessels and three more Vietnamese boats suspected of encroaching on Palau’s waters.

Australian Maritime Surveillance Advisor – Palau, LCDR Ben Fennell earlier said in an earlier interview said there is more illegal fishing in the EEZ than one patrol boat can handle.

Last year, Palau burned Vietnamese fishing boats off its coast. “We will not tolerate any more unsustainable acts,” Remengasau. “Palau guarantees, you will return with nothing.”

The 29 fishermen aboard the vessels captured last month were harvesting sea cucumbers at the Palau National Marine Sanctuary.

Remengesau signed the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act into law in 2015, dedicating 80 percent of the country’s exclusive economic zone as a no fishing area, while 20 percent of the EEZ is for Palau’s domestic fishing market.

Palau today released a Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Plan details a five-year strategy to combat illegal activity and manage emergency responses in its waters. “We may be a small country, but we have taken giant steps to protect our ocean,” Remengesau said in a statement.

“Island communities like ours have been the first to struggle with the negative impacts of declining ocean resources and the effects of global warming. We will continue to do everything we can to defend ourselves from poachers and the destructive effects of a changing climate, but we cannot do it alone.”

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