Friday, April 17, 2015

Palau Marine Sanctuary Gaining Momentum

We've been following the Palau news closely for news of the operator that took the shark selfies (found this story in Tia Belau) and found that there are other great environmental initiatives taking place besides sharks.

The proposal for a fully protected marine reserve in Palau is moving closer to reality. The Island Times, a local newspaper, reports that there is near unanimous support with the country's 16 popularly elected governors.
15 Of 16 Governors Support Palau Marine Sanctuary
‘Immediate action needed to address declining fish stocks’

Fifteen of sixteen governors in this island nation are backing the plan to create a National Marine Sanctuary.

In their letter to President Remengesau dated January 26, 2015, the governors said the proposed marine sanctuary will be good for the people of Palau and all sixteen states.

The letter was signed by Governors Temmy Shmull of Peleliu, Leilani Reklai of Aimeliik, Browny Salvador of Ngarchelong, Jeffrey Titiml of Kayangel, Aloysius Tellei of Melekeok, Ellender Ngirameketii of Ngiwal, Duane Hideo of Ngchesar, Wilson Ongos of Ngaremlengui, Renguul Masahiro of Ngardmau, Tmewang Rengulbai of Airai, Isaac Bai of Ngaraard, Jersey Iyar of Ngatpang, Marvin Ngirutang of Angaur, and Thomas Patris of Hatohobei.

Then Governor Jacob Yangilmau of Sonsorol also signed the letter. Yangilmau, who resigned from office in February of this year, was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Damien Albis, who is believed to be supportive of the sanctuary plan.

“He is hedging,” said a person with intimate knowledge of the issue. Island Times was not able to get Adachi’s reason for opposing such initiative as of press time.

The Governors said in their letter noted the acute problem of dwindling fish resources.

“There is no doubt that over the years we have seen fewer and fewer fish in our state waters. At the same time we have seen an increase in fish prices at the local fish markets. This has forced our people to rely on imported and less healthy foods that are cheaper to feed their families with. The preservation of our culture and our health required that we take steps to increase our fish stocks and thereby lower prices of fish for our citizens,” they stated.

The Governors said immediate action is needed to address declining fish stocks.

“While we understand that the Sanctuary does not cover our state waters, we do believe that the health of the Ocean in our state waters is being threatened. Moreover, our traditions taught us that we must respect the Ocean and take action to temporarily stop fishing if there are signs that fish stocks are under threat. Clearly our fish stocks are under threat,” they added.

“The Marine Sanctuary will therefore help replenish our Oceans while making more fish available for locals. It makes sense both environmentally and economically. Moreover, under new legislation funding to the states will not be reduced; in fact under existing treaties and through enhanced tourism like catch and release fishing, our state revenues could actually increase. Therefore, we collectively express our unconditional support to the proposed Marine Sanctuary legislation pending in the National Congress,” they further stated.

The proposal on the National Marine Sanctuary put forward by President Remengesau includes a complete prohibition on purse seine fishing that covers 100 percent of the EEZ; a no-take Marine Sanctuary that covers over 80 percent of the Palau EEZ; a highly regulated Fishing Zone that covers approximately 20 percent of the EEZ that will provide for only Palau’s domestic fishing needs; and a prohibition on commercial fish exports.

The proposal to create a Palau National Marine Sanctuary has been introduced and pending in the Senate as Senate Bill No. 9-30.

The plan is also backed by the Palau Chamber of Commerce, Council of Chiefs, state legislatures, Belau Boaters Association, Palau Sports Fishing Association, Northern Reef Fisheries Alliance, Ocean Elders (comprised of many prominent international figures like Queen Noor of Jordan, Prince Albert of Monaco, CNN founder Ted Turner and others), National Geographic, RMI President Christopher Loeak, and many others.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Shark Stanley Ambassador Rob Stewart's new movie Revolution is being released online on Earth Day, April 22. You can get more details on his website When you watch the film, keep an eye out for the prettiest little island in the entire world: Saipan. In 2011, school children from Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands rallied to protect sharks.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

5 Questions With Shark Stanley: Sylvia Earle

Dr. Sylvia Earle and Shark Stanley in China.
One name gets mentioned more than all others when we ask people to name their ocean heroes: Sylvia Earle.  She is our newest Shark Ambassador

Sylvia Earle, called "Her Deepness" by the New Yorker and the New York Times, "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress and "Hero for the Planet" by Time, is an oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer with a deep commitment to research through personal exploration.

Earle's work has been at the frontier of deep ocean exploration for four decades. Earle has led more than 50 expeditions worldwide involving more than 6,000 hours underwater. As captain of the first all-female team to live underwater, she and her fellow scientists received a ticker-tape parade and White House reception upon their return to the surface. In 1979, Sylvia Earle walked untethered on the sea floor at a lower depth than any other woman before or since. In the 1980s she started the companies Deep Ocean Engineering and Deep Ocean Technologies with engineer Graham Hawkes to design and build undersea vehicles that allow scientists to work at previously inaccessible depths. In the early 1990s, Dr. Earle served as Chief Scientist of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. At present she is explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society.

Dr. Earle reading The Adventures of Shark Stanley and Friends to students in China
Sylvia Earle is a dedicated advocate for the world's oceans and the creatures that live in them. Her voice speaks with wonder and amazement at the glory of the oceans and with urgency to awaken the public from its ignorance about the role the oceans plays in all of our lives and the importance of maintaining their health.

We ask our Shark Ambassadors the same set of five questions. Here's what Dr. Earle had to say:

Why are sharks important to you?
Sharks are important to the health of the ocean. Healthy oceans are important for people. If the ocean is in trouble, we are in trouble. If sharks are in trouble, we are in trouble. Taking care of sharks means taking care of the ocean and taking care of us.

How are we going to save the world’s sharks?
The best way is to stop killing them. The next important step is to protect the ocean, where sharks live. There is more than one way to kill a shark – poison with pollution, take their food, destroy their habitat. The most important thing people must know is why sharks matter and to take action individually and together to respect them, stop killing them, and protect the ocean from harm.

How are you working to protect sharks?
I speak for sharks to fellow scientists, the general public, and anyone and everyone to inspire them to know to care about sharks. I continue to explore the ocean to observe what’s happening as a witness. If people know about sharks, they might care. They can’t care if they don’t know. I do what I can to convey the importance of sharks wherever and however I can.

Lots of people look up to you, who are your conservation heroes?
My heroes range from children who are doing what they can to influence the people around them to care for sharks, the ocean, and the natural world. Also, teachers, artists, musicians, scientists, business leaders, and politicians who individually and together use their power to take care of nature and work to make the world a better place.

What advice would you give to young scientists?
Be glad you are an aspiring scientist early in the 21st century armed with the opportunities that didn’t exist any time in the past. Never before could we know the importance of understanding the natural world and our place in it. Never again will there be a better time to use the power of knowing to ensure the enduring future of human kind. 90% of the ocean has never been seen by anyone. There are mysteries to be solved everywhere. The greatest era of exploration has just begun and you can be a part of it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bad Korean Tourist

There are photos circulating on the Internet today of a young Korean girl in Palau holding a shark.  She posted the photos to her Instagram profile (which has since been deleted).  We're reposting the photos here so that the authorities in Palau can investigate.

The photo getting the most attention shows her holding a juvenile grey reef shark out of the water.  I think that's her dive master or boat captain on the right.  Anyone know his name?

A few minutes later she posted a second photo holding the shark.  Palau is a shark sanctuary and it is illegal to fish for sharks.  If you accidentally catch a shark, it should be released while still in the water, not brought on board for selfies.

They were also collecting giant clams.  I don't think that's Tridacna gigas, but is this legal for tourists to do in the Rock Islands?

So can you help?  Here's a photo she posted of her dive boat.  Can you help identify which shop this is?  I hope that the authorities can go pay them a visit and remind them not to harass sharks.


The Palauan authorities are investigating the tour operator. We will follow the story and post updates.

Also, there has been much discussion on social media about how the shark was caught accidentally.  The catching of the shark was not illegal; the law was broken when the shark was brought on board the vessel.

The Palau Shark Sanctuary law reads:
(i)f any shark is inadvertently caught or captured, it shall be immediately released, whether dead or alive; if the shark is caught or captured alive, it shall be released in the manner that affords it the greatest opportunity for survival.
The law continues:
to possess, receive, sell, transfer, store, have on board, or transship any shark, or any part of any shark. For the purpose of this subsection, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that if any shark, or any part of a shark, is found aboard a vessel the shark, or shark part, was possessed or transferred in violation of this subsection.
The criminal penalties for violating this law are "punishable by a fine of not more than $250,000."

The dive shop should be worried because the authorities in Palau are known to enforce their laws.  Just last month they handed out a $100,000 fine to a vessel that was illegally fishing in Palauan waters and found with 304 sharks aboard their vessel.  In neighboring Saipan, a dive master was recently jailed for six months after he posted a photo to Facebook of an eagle ray he killed.
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