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Palau's National Marine Sanctuary Signed Into Law   You are logged in as Guest
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BarkellWH

Posts: 3247
Joined: Jul. 12 2009
From: Washington, DC

Palau's National Marine Sanctuary Si... 

It is fitting that on my penultimate day in Palau, President Remengesau will sign the National Marine Sanctuary Bill into law this afternoon. Palau has some of the most beautiful marine environments on the planet, with 700 species of coral and more than 1,300 species of fish, including beautiful reef fish, as well as sharks, manta rays, and other denizens of the sea. And for stunning beauty, nothing beats the rock islands just south of the main island of Koror. (Just type in key words: "Palau Rock Islands,"and you will see photos that look like emerald jewels have been dropped into the azure waters.)

Palau is in the forefront of protecting the marine environment. You may remember a couple of months ago they burned five of seven Vietnamese vessels that were fishing illegally in Palauan waters. (The two vessels were spared to take the fishermen back to Vietnam.) The National Marine Sanctuary Act designates 80 percent of Palau's maritime territory as a fully protected marine reserve in which no extractive activities, such as fishing or mining, can take place. At 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles), it will become the sixth largest fully-protected marine reserve in the world. Twenty percent of Palau's waters will become a domestic fishing zone reserved for local fishermen and small-scale commercial fisheries.

The transformation will take place over a five-year period, during which large-scale commercial fishing licensing will be phased out. Palau plans to recoup the revenue lost from commercial fishing licensing through an increased fee attached to airline ticketing to Palau, as well as increased fees for diving in Palau's waters.

Since I arrived in Palau over three months ago this has been a major issue, and now that I am leaving tomorrow night with the bill signed into law, I feel privileged to have been here to see it happen. A great day for the marine environment. I depart Palau tomorrow night for Hawaii, via Guam. Will spend three days in Honolulu and then on to Washington, DC. Completely different environment, with fall, the turning of the leaves, and a copita of jerez by the fire.

Bill

_____________________________

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white,
With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

--Rudyard Kipling
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 28 2015 6:34:44
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to BarkellWH

Bill, thanks for the update in that. Good news.

_____________________________

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 28 2015 14:02:50
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3782
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to BarkellWH

Yeah, really something! :O)

Ruphus
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 29 2015 9:36:14
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3131
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to BarkellWH

Congratulations to Palau for dedicating such a large marine sanctuary.

Although Palau has a strong economic incentive to protect its marine life, this does not detract from the virtue of its actions.

I don't know the numbers, but just from visiting there several times and driving around the new highway that circumnavigates the largest island, Babeldaob, it is clear that tourism is one of the major contributors to Palau's economy. There are large hotels, many good restaurants and shops, all devoted to the tourist trade, mainly centered around the many scuba diving operations.

My experience over a period of years with two of the dive operations is that they are very conservation oriented, and follow the best practices of the industry.

But according to my observation, even the best practices will not eliminate significant human impact.

For nearly 19 years my buddies and I dove every weekend at Kwjalein in the Marshall Islands. Most of the diving there is from boats rented from the two local marinas, one on the island of Kwajalein at the south end of the atoll, the other on Roi-Namur at the north end. The boats are confined to a relatively small area of the world's largest coral lagoon. The two dive clubs on the atoll are strongly oriented toward conservation, and the great majority of members comply with best practices. There are far fewer people on Roi-Namur than on Kwajalein. At the peak period during the time I lived there, there were maybe 20 people on average diving near Roi-Namur, almost entirely on weekends.

A few times a year I would be Divemaster on dive club trips with around 40 divers, or travel by private boat to areas outside the marina-limited areas. The number of dives per unit area is much smaller at Kwajalein than it is at Palau, and at many other commercial dive sites. But even at Roi-Namur the difference was night and day between the areas regularly visited by the marina boats and the places that get visited only once or twice a year.

The regularly visited dive spots at Palau show even more human impact. There is an abundance of large animals, but the diversity of life is much less than on a pristine reef.
I don't know what the mechanism is, but the effect is unmistakable.

Worldwide, Palau is one of the the leaders in marine conservation. They are to be admired. But people, in the huge numbers in which we now exist, significantly affect the environment, wherever there are a lot of us.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 30 2015 20:47:51
 
BarkellWH

Posts: 3247
Joined: Jul. 12 2009
From: Washington, DC

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to Richard Jernigan

The most significant dive operation in Palau is Sam's Tours, which celebrated it's 25th anniversary just last Saturday, October 24. Sam Scott, the owner of Sam's, is a good friend of mine, dating back to 2010, when I pulled a five-month gig as Charge' d'Affaires of the American Embassy and got to know him well. Coincidentally, I was there for the 20th anniversary celebration at the time. The 25th anniversary celebration last Saturday was a big event, as Sam's is a mutually-beneficial collaboration between an American owned and run operation and the Palauan government and economy. Palauan President Remengesau was there and gave a nice speech, and Sam had asked me, as Embassy Charge', to say a few words, which I did after President Remengesau spoke. It was a great evening, and Sam had brought in a band from Guam to provide music.

I am spending three days in Hawaii on my own dime, and then I will return to Washington, DC. Looking forward to fall, the cool weather, and a nice copita of jerez. No jerez to be found in Palau. If I were still in the active Foreign Service and assigned to Palau for a full two or three-year tour, I definitely would order jerez by the case to be shipped in to the Embassy!

Bill

_____________________________

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white,
With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

--Rudyard Kipling
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 30 2015 22:04:50
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to BarkellWH

I remember in 1988 walking out on a rickety cement pier just out side Kolonia Town where there was a shack that housed a seagoing dugout sailing craft. I had a snorkel, fins and a mask and at that time I was in top shape as a swimmer. Still maintained some of the training from the high school swim team, which was no joke because we were a team that sent swimmers to nationals.

I jumped in the water expecting my first plunge into Micronesian waters to be pristine and wonder filled. No sooner had the bubbles and froth of my leap cleared my vision than I saw a couple rusted Toyota trucks that must have been pushed over the side of the dock. What a shock. My first expectation was of glorious fish and plants.

Well eventually we made it out of town and took a boat to an atoll. I swam with my mask, fins and snorkel over a reef and out into blue water. I swam for several yards out past the shallow reef and then turned and looked back at the reef. It was in ten feet of water, some Elk horn coral, white, not really spectacular, but a border of some kind. As I looked at the reef l also looked at what was below it, because I had passed out over into deep water. I saw a great curving ledge with coral at the very top, like a rim of a canyon and it dropped steep, almost vertical, a sand and rock slope. I was hanging on the surface of the water looking at a great chasm and as the water under me became deeper it merged into blackness below me. Not very many fish, not much of anything, but a pale blue vertical drop into silence and complete dark. And there I was looking through 30 yards of clear water at a hedge of coral at the rim of this underwater cliff. I swam back to the rim of coral and over it and felt the pull of currents as water filtered through the breaks and open canals between stands of coral. The coral was uncomfortable and could cut you if you did not pay attention and allowed the current to brush you up against the sharp tines of calcium. It was not as chilling as the that slope dropping into the pure dark. And a snorkel and fins seem so insignificant.

And eventually I acquired a water proof flash light and did a night snorkel. There are some odd long black wormy things that waft around in the night waters that are like aliens. And also I found 1500 year old coral heads in 25 feet of water that had an abundance of fish. Fish that ate coral, and you could hear them crunching the coral and spitting it out.

But the first day, a truck, a rusted truck.

_____________________________

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 31 2015 12:39:09
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3782
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to BarkellWH

I admire the balls.
First, when about 4 years old, stuffed with a rife, and trying to follow parents in the dawn, something in the black water quite pinched me into the foot.

Later, up from around 7 years or so the staged regular Cousteau trash about blood thursty sharks gave me the rest. Since then, though braved a couple of challenges, I fear the open sea.

Not to think of swimming in the dark! >phew<

Ruphus

PS:
Allegedly, the depth of water where the most shark attacks happen to occure, is to be around 50 cm.

Today attacks seem to increase. Two reasons that are confirmed are human population with now way more swimmers (and change in custom I´d say, as many coastal cultures originally saw no use in entering the sea for anything other than fishing and shipping) and waste dumping around havens which results in sharks downstream from there along the coast roaming for food.

Another point that I personally assume is the lack of prey after 90% of sea life having been erased through industrial net-fishery.

On the one hand numbers of sharks seem to be drastically decimated (seeing how nowadays a penguin can make it from the Antarctic to New Zealand, which originally should have been rather impossible) on the other hand many of the remaining shark populations must be enduring hunger.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 31 2015 13:51:26
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3131
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to estebanana



These are just nurse sharks. They won't bite you--usually--but it's a bad idea to touch one or to try grabbing its long tail. As noted they gather at the small boat marina at Kwajalein to feast on scraps tossed by fishermen cleaning their catch.

Near Roi-Namur, fifty miles away at the north end of the atoll, there is a narrow cut in the reef called North Pass which connects the lagoon to the ocean. It's about 110 feet deep, and has vertical walls and a sand bottom. When the tide changes the current whistles through.

Our tactic was to take five people on a boat. Lots were drawn to see who were the four who did the first dive, and who stayed on the boat, following the divers' bubbles as they rode the current through the pass. The process was repeated for the second dive, with the proviso that the first driver got to do the second dive.

There are a few small caves where the walls meet the bottom. My buddy went into one and I followed. Inside was a nurse shark about ten or eleven feet long, asleep on the bottom. We took photos and exited. Then my buddy decided to go back for another shot. I followed. The bright flashes or our movements in the water apparently woke up the shark, which began to move a little. Noting that there was room at the exit for only one of the three of us at a time, I left, followed shortly by my buddy.

Promptly the shark came blasting out of the cave at warp speed. Seeing my buddy and me, it turned right and followed the line where the wall meets the bottom. Another regular buddy had his head stuck in a little hole along the line, photographing whatever was in there. The shark, in its haste, collided with him. He pulled his head out of the hole with a surprised look, saw the shark fleeing, then noticed the three of us laughing our butts off as we hung in the water. He paused for a few moments, disoriented, then expressed his sentiments with an elevated middle finger.

Back on the boat he said when he felt the shark hit him, then saw it blasting away, he expected to see half his leg bitten off. He mistook our laughing through our regulators as cries of terror, then realized he still had his entire leg, and we were laughing at him.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 31 2015 22:37:55
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to BarkellWH

Richard,

You've retraumatized Ruphus and he'll never go into a bath tub much less the ocean.

Bath sharks, very scary.

_____________________________

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 1 2015 5:50:58
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3782
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to BarkellWH

I used to have one.
Ignorants call them "rubber ducks".

Ruphus
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 1 2015 6:42:45
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3131
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to estebanana

Most sharks are not very scary. Almost all fish that live long enough to get big are very cautious. The only exception I have personally witnessed are big manta rays. Once they get six or eight feet in wingspan, they don't much care about humans nearby.

Great whites and tiger sharks are said to be fearless when they get big. I have never seen a great white or a big tiger under water. The only tiger I have seen in the water was a baby, about six feet long. It was very cautious.

But tigers bite and sometimes kill surfers in Hawaii. Usually they spit them out once they realize it's not their usual prey. Great whites kill surfers in the "bloody triangle" along the central coast of California. Same deal there, usually when the great white realizes the person is not a seal or a sea lion, they spit them out. But the encounter can still be fatal.

There is a well known account of a great white shark killed by an orca near the Farallones, just off the coast at San Francisco, California. Apparently the orca killed it by holding it belly up in the water for several minutes.

Normally a good deal of great white activity is seen around the Farallones. After the orca incident, they seemed to disappear. At least one white shark equipped with a tracking device left the Farallones and traveled nonstop to Hawaii.

One of my friends was an underwater photographer during a career of more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He said that in the late 1970s people still believed that orcas were extremely dangerous. He told me, "The way it went back then was, if you saw one in the water, you were dead." He was doing a working dive at San Diego when he was approached by an orca, which just seemed to be curious about what he was up to.

Two friends of mine had a business making educational underwater videos which they sold mainly to schools in the USA. They wanted video of a shark feeding frenzy. We recommended a spot less than a mile from where I lived on Roi-Namur, which almost always had a sizable pack of 50 or more grey reef sharks, up to six feet long. Using bait, it took them ten attempts to get the sharks going so they could film them.

By far the greatest number of human fatalities due to sharks was due to the oceanic white tips that killed hundreds of seamen who abandoned sinking ships in the Pacific during WW II.

However, even the normally cautious grey reef shark can be dangerous on extremely rare occasions. Bill Curtsinger, the noted National Geographic photographer, was bitten by a grey reef. He has spectacular scars along his left arm and back. All he would ever say to me was that he was free diving in the open ocean, "in the western Carolines" when he caught a motion out of the corner of his eye. He barely had time to get his arm up when the shark hit him. He could offer no explanation for its behavior.

One day I was waiting for the commuter flight from Kwajalein to Roi-Namur. I fell into conversation with four visitors, members of a band hired by the Army to entertain the local American workers. I was wearing a Roi-Namur Dolphins Scuba Club polo shirt, so they asked me about diving. Two of them had 20 or 30 dives, the other two were brand new.

One of the newbies asked, "Are there sharks here?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

"Everywhere."

"What do you do when you see a shark?"

"Take its picture if it's close enough."

"Don't you do anything about safety?"

"Almost never. The grey reef sharks are territorial. Maybe once out of 300 dives, they will let you know it's time to leave. Otherwise, you do nothing."

"Why not?"

"If you can see the shark, it can bite you before you can move. The visibility here is more than 150 feet on a good day."

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 2 2015 0:24:01
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to BarkellWH

In early 1980's was surfing at San Onofre North of San Diego. We were sitting vert far out on an easy wave day. Down the coast about 20 to 30 yards out from us came a pod of Orca. They just swam by and paid us no attention. It was quite awesome. Dolphins are common to see while surfing, but I've only seen Orca that close once.

But Great Whites are creepy, having surfed a lot between Big Sur and Marin County it's something that never quite leaves your mind. You often wonder who is watching your legs dangle.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 2 2015 1:38:58
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3782
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to BarkellWH

Richard,

As a zoological nerd I knew that stuff, but it is always fun to read about the matter.
In respect of accidents for being mistaken for seal, I always wonder why still today neopren suits are often kept in black instead of flashy colors.

Is there still a technical reason for that?

In respect of danger from wildlife, it increasingly shows from year to year that most feared species are not what they are supposed to be, and that often times other species stand for the highest number of deaths.

Now you see brave folks swimming with the great whites. (Whose behaviour appears to largely be bound to spots of prey.) Tigers sharks however are still being deemed of high risk. Hammer sharks seem to not be very predictable either.

As mentioned once, I was extensively roaming the jungle in Costa Rica where the fearless Yaguar lives, but the highest danger actually comes from snakes.
Similar to the situation in grizzly land one should not be so silly to sneak (which actually I am pretty good with), so that the animals have a chance of noting you / won´t be taken by surprise.

To be not too quiet / vibration less also helps about the snakes who then have a chance of hiding away. Only not against tree climbing snakes, which present the most of danger there. Their hanging down from branches can become a bad surprise, which was why I basically checked on head hight whilst otherwise rather relaxed (and a bit too careless maybe in my flip-flops).

Anyway, without seeing how a native handled it I would had believed the jungle was way more endangering than it actually is.
-

Stephen,

Your mentioned scenario of surfers´ feet dangling is exactly what me promptly wonders about when I see surfers in shark waters. From below the silhoute somewhat ressembles the one of seal.

The phantasy would go wild on me. Where´s the shivering icon when you need it?


On another note: Isn´t it amazing how most predators will skip humans?
I always found that amazing.

... Uncomparable to how many of humans are, the minute they find themselves in superiour position.
( -The sounds of tortue that I have to hear here every other time, quite prove it. It gives you wringing creeps that can´t be put into words. The more, when serious trouble already being plenty.)

Evil sits in spiritual nowhereland. Already where self-awareness over a degree exists, and far yet from early stage of comprehension.

No creature as cruel like inhumane humans. ... Maybe even in the whole of galaxy.
- No space ship Enterprise there. Spock would wisely treat homo primitivus with his eliminator.

Sorry for the digress, ... its my regular perception.
(Can´t escape it, even if I like to.)

Ruphus
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 2 2015 3:59:00
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3131
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to estebanana

quote:

ORIGINAL: estebanana

But Great Whites are creepy, having surfed a lot between Big Sur and Marin County it's something that never quite leaves your mind. You often wonder who is watching your legs dangle.


We used to drive from Palo Alto though the Portola redwoods to the tiny village of Pescadero, just back from the coast, to enjoy some of the best cioppino (Italian seafood stew) and sourdough bread at the restaurant there. Then sometimes we would drive down the coast to Año Nuevo to see the elephant seals.

When the waves are high the water stacks up on the beach, then flows back out in rip currents, relatively narrow flows that set strongly back out to sea. It would amaze me to see some of the surfers riding the rips back out beyond the breaks.

The great white sharks would hang out at the seaward end of the rips, waiting for God to sent them a baby seal. Once in a while a shark would mistake a surfer for dinner.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 2 2015 16:12:46
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to BarkellWH

quote:

When the waves are high the water stacks up on the beach, then flows back out in rip currents, relatively narrow flows that set strongly back out to sea. It would amaze me to see some of the surfers riding the rips back out beyond the breaks.


If the break is a sand bar and the swell is powerful it's often the best way to get back out into the lineup. The rip cuts channels in the sand bars and those channels become rivers. The shark attacks are never predictable, but there is tendency for them to happen when lighting conditions are poor. Still with the sharkiess of those waters it's more likely you get bitten by a drunk driver than a shark.
But surfers are crazy and the 'addiction' to the ride and rush is powerful. But even the big Whites just bite and release most of the time. There are bitten surfboards, big radius scars on torsos, they are killers, but they seem to release humans when they figure out it's not a seal. By that time it may or may not be too late. But Whites don't generally re-attack and continue to eat the human.

Over the years I've seen dozens of stinky dead seals with one bite taken out of them, so these sharks are also food wasters your mother would admonish.

I sailed out to the Farralones on 46' foot sail boat around 1999. The sail was fun, it was foggy we had to watch for cargo ships and head off of them. When we got to islands we sailed around them and the captain allowed a non experienced Silicon Valley tech guy to take the wheel for a few minutes and bring the boat around the island. He practically drove us up on the rocks, we got within 40 yards of the rocky shore on a strong fast tack and the captain quickly took the boat back and managed to get us away from shore. That would have been a rough crash landing, and it is sharky and really cold.

What put me off was the stench of a few thousand seals crapping on the grey and orange rocks and emitting pungent seal BO which was carried to our noses when we rounded the island and the wind direction changed. The stench of 2000 seals is mindbendingly disgusting. I don't know how scientists who study seals do it. They must stay upwind of the foul creatures. When we were headed into to rocks the smell was so bad we started dry wretching and the air acrid from absorbing seal urine hit into the eyes making them sting and water.

I surmised this could be why sharks only take that one bite.

_____________________________

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 2 2015 23:47:26
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3131
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Palau's National Marine Sanctuar... (in reply to estebanana

quote:

ORIGINAL: estebanana

What put me off was the stench of a few thousand seals crapping on the grey and orange rocks and emitting pungent seal BO which was carried to our noses when we rounded the island and the wind direction changed. The stench of 2000 seals is mindbendingly disgusting. I don't know how scientists who study seals do it. They must stay upwind of the foul creatures. When we were headed into to rocks the smell was so bad we started dry wretching and the air acrid from absorbing seal urine hit into the eyes making them sting and water.

I surmised this could be why sharks only take that one bite.


Yes. We only went to Año Nuevo when we thought we could see the seals without having to get downwind from them.

I never surfed. I guess I didn't live close enough to the waves at the right age. But i dove in deep caves in the Sierra Madre Oriental before there even were scuba training organizations, much less training for cave diving.

It surprises me that I don't dream about it. I've gotten much more cautious as I've gotten older.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Nov. 3 2015 1:19:09
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