The small island nation of Palau has spent the last decade ramping up efforts to combat illegal fishing practices plaguing its waters, and its approachÂ could be used as a model for the larger global effort to end the estimated $20 billion black seafood market, according to an article published in the New York Times magazine.
In its latest in long line of responses to illegal and destructive fishing, Palau created a “no take” zone in 2015, which encompasses 193,000 square miles where all export fishing will be prohibited.
In 2006, it was among the first nations to ban bottom trawling, in 2009 it prohibited commercial shark fishing in its waters, creating the world’s first shark sanctuary, and in 2015 announced plans to require observers aboard all its tuna longliners.
The kind of coordinated and international efforts to catch illegal fishing vessels that take place in Palau “are a rarity when it comes to enforcing the law at sea, but the alternative is usually no enforcement at all”, according to the article.
Palau employs a marine police division with just 18 members and one patrol ship, but has authority over about 230,000 square miles of ocean, and each year the country faces between 50-100 incursions by pirate vessels
In response to the challenge,Â “Palau has mounted an aggressive response”.
The island’s multi-pronged approach is rare but necessary for the small country that relies so heavily on ecotourism, and could act as a model for the rest of the world.
“Though most governments have neither the inclination nor the resources to patrol the oceans, Palau is trying a different approach, and whether it succeeds or fails may have consequences for the entire planet.”
John Hocevar of Greenpeace posted a blog entry on the organization’s website arguing that despite Palau’s efforts, “indifference from foreign fishing fleets and powerful markets around the world…allows the plunder to continue”.