Community cooperation is a must to stop illegal poaching of the Napoleon Wrasse, Minister of Natural Resources, Tourism and Environment Umiich Sengebau told Pacific Note.
Sengebau was reacting to the social media firestorm created by photos posted on Facebook of alleged tourists holding a dead Napoleon Wrasse.
Although the photos do not verify whether it was taken in Palau, it has been known that the tame Napoleon Wrasses found at Blue Corner have been disappearing. There is a growing concern that the protected species is fished despite a complete ban on the taking of the fish known in Palau as Maml.
There has been allegations made that the Napoleon Wrasse are being served in Chinese restaurants in Palau.
Certain restaurants in Palau have already been fined for possession of Maml and other protected marine species, but the trade seems to continue, as alleged by several netizens.
Sengebau urged the community to report to law enforcers any information that could lead to the arrest of the poachers and the people or establishments involved in the illegal trade of protected marine species.
He said the alleged trade is “unacceptable” and vowed to work with the Ministry of Justice to save the protected species from overfishing.
Napoleon Wrasse is an iconic attraction to divers visiting Palau's premiere dive site "Blue Corner", but in areas of South East Asia they are sought as a delicacy in the live fish trade, a trade which has decimated populations in many parts of the world. Adult fish can fetch many thousands of U.S dollars.