The Ebiil Society, a non-government organization in Palau that is promoting conservation and sustainable fishery practices, has launched a Fishing Derby on March 31 to educate fishermen on sustainable fishing practices while at the same time, make them enjoy the process.
Fifteen boats operated by team participants move around the sea zone where fishing is not prohibited, guided by game rules specially drafted to make sure that they follow all national and state conservation laws.
Ebiil Society Director Ann Singeo said in an interview that the objective of the game is to have fishermen start thinking about how to participate in the tuna fishery industry if foreign fishing companies are going to leave Palau by 2020 if they choose not to stay to serve domestic fishing markets.
Palau President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. signed into law the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act last October 28, 2015 to push for conservation initiatives to protect the country’s marine resources. The law gives a five-year transition period, which means that by 2020, 80 percent of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) will be part of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, leaving the remaining 20% of it reserved for traditional fishing and fishing operations that are serving only Palau’s domestic and tourism needs.
“The whole point of the game is really trying to educate fishermen on how to think about alternating the fisheries so that when, if it is for commercial purposes, for the restaurants, for tourism, then [they should] target Pelagic fish because they are more sustainable,” Singeo said. [restrict]
Singeo explained that according to fisheries studies, Pelagic fish like tuna are more resilient and they spawn aggressively compare to the reef fish.
“They (pelagic fishes) spawn aggressively and the growth is also much quicker…like between two to three years they’ve all reached adult state compare to the coral reef fish that could take anywhere from 10-15 or 20 years,” Singeo said.
Singeo explained that by targeting Pelagic fish for commercial, restaurant, and tourism purposes, coastal fishes will be given a break to revive itself.
According to Singeo, they had conducted fishery monitoring in the past and found out that over 60 percent of the time, the fishes caught were intended for commercial purposes.
“If we could manage the commercial side then we could improve the sustainability for Palau’s fishery,” Singeo added.
During the Fishing Derby, the organizers invited a tuna grader to rate the quality of tuna that were caught by the participants and all the tuna that came in were graded A.
Singeo said that currently, fishes that are sold by tuna fishing companies in Palau are rejects while those that are of good quality are sold in foreign markets.
With the Ebiil Society’s sustainable seafood program, they linked fishermen to restaurants and informs the latter that if they buy from the local fishers, they will get the Grade A tuna instead of the rejects. (Rhealyn C. Pojas/Reporter)