After driving the whalers out of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has turned its sights from defending whales to protecting sharks. A Memorandum of Agreement was signed last month between the direct action marine wildlife conservation organization and the Republic of Palau. The agreement authorizes Sea Shepherd to collaborate directly with Palau’s Division of Marine Law Enforcement (DMLE) to patrol and safeguard a marine protected area designated as the world’s first shark sanctuary. During a recent visit to Palau, Capt. Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Roest met with President Johnson Toribiong of Palau, and the 16-member traditional Council of Chiefs who serve as his advisors, to sign the agreement.
Under the agreement: Sea Shepherd will, at its sole expense, send a vessel to patrol Palau’s territorial waters against illegal fishing activity. Sea Shepherd will assist the DMLE officers onboard its vessel and facilitate prosecution of offenders to the fullest extent. The relationship between Sea Shepherd and Palau is defined as a “partnership in the preservation of marine life.”
In September 2009, Toribiong addressed the United Nations and declared Palau’s territorial waters as the world’s first official shark sanctuary. In August 2010, the president recognized protection of all marine mammals in the same designated sanctuary. Despite an increasing poaching problem in Palau’s waters, Toribiong has not wavered in his support for conservation. This joint effort between Palau’s government and Sea Shepherd begins the next phase of Toribiong’s conservation plan -- in-field enforcement.
Palau Shark Sanctuary was founded in 2001 in an effort to end the annihilation of Palau's sharks as a result of rampant shark-finning at the hands of foreign long-line fishing vessels licensed by Palau to fish in their waters. In May 2003, former Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. became a key supporter of the efforts of Palau Shark Sanctuary. In September 2003, he signed into law some of the toughest anti-shark-finning legislation in the world.
Sea Shepherd has a long history of working in direct collaboration with national governments to oppose poaching operations; its first such agreement was in the Galapagos Islands, where Sea Shepherd is now in its 11th year of working in partnership with the Galapagos National Park and the Ecuadorian Environmental Police to protect the waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. For more information, visit www.tourism-unlimited.com/PSS or www.visit-palau.com.