Communities Taking a Stand on Fishing Free Zones

FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute / Flickr
A leatherback sea turtle off Jacksonville, FL

Two island countries on opposite sides of the globe both made news recently for declaring fishing-free zones on their shores. And both have novel ways of patrolling and enforcement—drones.

The islands are Puerto Rico in the Atlantic, and Palau in the Indian Ocean, which shares maritime boundaries with Indonesia, Micronesia and the Phillipines.
At a recent UN oceans conference, Palau president Tommy Remengesau Jr declared his Pacific nation will ban commercial fishing and that Palau’s 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone will be “100 per cent marine sanctuary”.

Remengesau made his announcement at a UN meeting on “Healthy Oceans and Seas”. The island has outstanding fishing contracts with Japan, Taiwan and some private companies that are due to expire, and will not be renewed. Palau has about 20,000 people spread across 250 islands. Scientific studies have shown that commercial fishing at its current rates are not sustainable, and that nothing shy of a ban would enable the stock to return to reasonable rates.

On the other side of the world, the tiny island state of Puerto Rico has finally agreed to create a protected zone on the island’s northeast Atlantic coast to protect leatherback turtles, which are “critically endangered” on the IUCN’s Red list. The zone is called the Northeast Ecological Corridor and will be 14 square kilometers of pristine beachfront that developers have long sought after. The area is also home to almost 900 various types of fauna and flora, and many hope preserving area will have additional benefits of promoting ecotourism. At least for now, the turtles will have a protected region to hatch by the hundreds and make their sand-bound travels out to see.