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SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: February 26, 2020

SNIP: Palau’s much-touted marine sanctuary has backfired, with the fishing ban leading to an increased consumption of the reef fish in the western Pacific country – such as grouper, snapper and parrotfish – that the marine sanctuary promised to protect.

Palau introduced a new 500,000 sq km (193,000 sq mile) marine sanctuary on 1 January to much fanfare.

The establishment of the sanctuary, which is twice the size of Mexico and is the world’s sixth-largest fully protected area, saw Palau close 80% of its economic exclusion zone to commercial fishing as well as activities like drilling for oil.

While the closure of the EEZ to commercial fishing aimed to reduce pressure on the reef by encouraging sustainable domestic fishing of fish like tuna, the ban has actually led to a shortage as commercial fishing vessels have moved out of Palau’s waters.

As a result, shops and restaurants in Palau are serving up vulnerable reef fish instead of pelagic fish like tuna.

“It will be the opposite of what we wanted,” said Yimnang Golbuu, chief executive of Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) and administrator of the marine sanctuary, of reports of increased consumption of reef fish.

Surangel Whipps Jr., the owner of one of the biggest supermarkets in Palau, said he had been forced to stock more reef fish due to the shortage.

“We were selling tuna, filleted tuna, and then now that there is no tuna, they are buying more reef fish, so we’re putting more pressure on resources we are trying to protect,” he said, adding that the marine sanctuary was “a good initiative but we need to increase the capacity of our local fishing industry.”