WRITTEN BY AUREA GERUNDIO-DIZON
The traditional leaders yesterday expressed support for the regulation prohibiting the exportation of sea cucumbers effective January 1 as well as state laws imposing a moratorium on the harvesting of this marine resource for commercial export. High Chief Ibedul Yutaka Gibbons said he is against the commercial exporting of sea cucumbers, considering the fact that it is slowly depleting. Ibedul recommended that harvesting be allowed only for local consumption.
High Chief Reklai Raphael Ngirmang said that Palauans do not consume sea cucumbers everyday as locals rely on these only when the weather is bad and fishermen could hardly catch fish. Reklai expressed concern on the fact that the production of sea cucumbers is very limited now. “So we need to preserve for consumption of Palauans,” he said. Reklai agrees that banning the harvesting for commercial purposes is necessary and that a scientific study for its sustainability should be done first.
Ngatpang Chief Surangel Whipps Sr. said that if almost all sea cucumbers will be fished, Palau’s waters will not be cleaned. Whipps said he learned in the chiefs’ consultation with an expert from The Nature Conservancy that sea cucumbers have a job to do – and that is to purify the ocean. “We should not deplete the sea cucumbers in our waters. We need to reproduce them,” Whipps said. Ibedul said the chiefs used to support the export of sea cucumbers but only on specific species. However, after the field trip of some Koror Elementary students in the west coast of Babeldaob, where they hardly found any specie of sea cucumber, Ibedul said it seems that all kinds of sea cucumbers are already being overfished.
Earlier report showed 6th Grade students of Koror Elementary School went out on a field trip to conservation areas in Aimeliik (sea grass bed at Ngerdebotar), Ngatpang (sea grass bed at Ngeseokel), Ollei (sea grass bed at Matul) and Ngarchelong (sea grass bed at Ngerkeklau). The students were asked to identify species of sea cucumbers and count how many sea cucumbers they find. However, to their disappointment, they found none except five in Ngarchelong. The chiefs said they received information that even in Airai and Ngardmau, sea cucumbers are depleting. The chiefs reiterate the need to stop the harvesting of tons of sea cucumbers to allow them to reproduce.
On the10th Peleliu State Legislature’s resolution urging President Toribiong to extend to the state a six-month time limit for harvesting non-cultured sea cucumbers, Ibedul and Reklai opposed to this. “Are you going to extend six months and ruin the next 20 years?” Reklai asked. Ibedul said the chiefs will ask the president not to grant an extension.