A major lesson from Palau
Palau is unlike many other countries in that it actually recognizes what it has i.e.: world class dive sites and instead of ruining and exploiting such a resource it embraces it and protects it.
I was particularly interested in how they were putting into practice their shark sanctuary policy (as unveiled to the world in September 2009) which banned the landing of sharks or shark fins by local or international vessels in Palauan waters. How is it policed? Does it work?
It is likely that to make such a bold statement as to declare your national waters a shark sanctuary you would have to be sure it would work, and of course it does.
Although in truth I believe if it was going to work anywhere it would be here due to a number of reasons; there was no existing international trade of shark meat or shark products, local fishermen avoid catching shark as they cannot sell it and Palauan’s do not eat it themselves.
Most of the islands are considered National Parks and so permits are required for visitors which are inspected by park rangers and finally the dive companies are savvy when it comes to issuing visitors with permits (it reflects badly on the company if their customers are not in possession of a valid permit and has consequences to boot) as well as their almost daily presence within their waters which must act as a strong deterrent to any international fishing vessels.
The ocean itself is also fundamental to the story of the creation of Palau (the country being born from a giant clam) as well as ocean practices such as fishing being featured in numerous folklore; being used to teach several morals and values.
For a country which only claimed independence in 1994 (having been owned/occupied by Spain, Germany, Japan and the United States). Palau stands in its own right as an example I wish we all could follow as a haven for sharks and other reef life. I must leave now, however I am keen to return especially during March time which is the Grey Reef Shark breeding season, which see’s specific dive sites teem with hundreds of shark’s (imagine that – perfection!).
So as I return to Manila for a final time, I can reflect on what an amazing time I have had both in the Philippines and Palau.
I would like to express my gratitude to Donsol Eco-Tour who enabled me to have some truly amazing encounters with Whale sharks which I will never forget, The TSRCP which gave me Thresher Sharks and so much more besides, Fish N’ Fins a super-duper dive experience in Palau and of course the guys at SSACN and SSTP who without which my computer illiterate self would never have been able to make this blog possible!
Finally thanks to all who kept up to date with this blog, I hope you found it informative and entertaining and I hope that in the future there will be plenty more like it!
Am I ready to go home for a while? Am I heck … bring on the next adventure!
Cheers to that!