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Unmanned Drones To Catch IUU Tuna Vessels Palau, October 3, 13

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) demonstration took place yesterday at the Palau International Airport with several Palau officials and foreign dignitaries witnessing the event.

Representatives from Aerosonde, an Australian firm that manufactures UAVs (commonly known as drones), conducted the much awaited demonstration. Three UAVs were brought to Palau – one was equipped with digital still camera while two were equipped with video cameras.

President Remengesau, in his remarks before the demo, expressed gratitude to Andrew Forrest, chairman of Minderoo Foundation, “who had footed the bill for the entire exercise.”

The president said that the UAV demonstration was aimed at showing the very significant potential of UAV’s to expand the breadth of Palau’s surveillance capacity on its waters.

“As we are all aware, the Pacific Ocean is the last great fishery in the world. Unfortunately, this great natural resource is rapidly being depleted, both in Palau’s waters and in all of the waters of the Pacific. If we are to preserve this magnificent resource for our children, leaders throughout the Pacific must begin to realistically assess our tuna stocks, reasonably limit fishing activities and seriously ramp up our tuna stock assessments as well as our surveillance and enforcement capacities throughout the Pacific,” Remengesau said.

Remengesau said Pacific nations banded together through the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (the PNA) to establish a cooperative surveillance network and scheme.

Although much work had been undertaken over the past decades, Remengesau said the tuna fishery continues to dwindle, along with other pelagic fish stocks that are primarily bi-catch of the Pacific tuna industry.

“Today’s demonstration is focused on expanding the horizons and the effectiveness of the PNA and in that effort, beginning the process of expanding the revenue stream to each of our Pacific nations from the transparent and sustainable use of the Tuna fishery,” Remengesau said.

Remengesau has again expressed his goal of banning commercial fishing within Palau’s exclusive economic zone and the use of UAVs is anticipated to effectively monitor Palau waters from illegal fishing.

“We consider today’s demonstration to be a cornerstone of economic efficiency and overall improvement of the basic concepts of fishery management and surveillance,” he said.

After the demonstration, Remengesau said the government will then look into negotiating the funding mechanism. President Remengesau had previously stated that his administration will work with non-government organizations and investors to solicit financial support for Palau’s acquisition of UAV.

Remengesau also looks forward to partnering with Minderoo Foundation for the realization of the UAV project.

Greg Parker, head of Finance of the Minderoo Foundation, yesterday expressed that Chairman Forest mandated him to assist the Republic of Palau with its fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing within the 600,000 square-kilometer EEZ after his recent visit.

Andrew Forest and his wife Nicola, according to Parker, are arguably Australia’s largest philanthropists and have donated over a quarter of a billion dollars to worthy causes during the past decade.

Parker said President Remengesau and Forest first met in January this year. Forrest had reportedly visited Palau 25 years earlier. During Forest’s latest visit, Parker said, he re-kindled his love for Palau’s environment and more particularly its people.

Parker said that upon Forest’s return to Australia, he subsequently declared war on IUU fishing in Palau waters.

Since then, the Minderoo Foundation has reportedly worked closely with the president, his staff and many other people to be able to conduct the demonstration.

“We have to put an end to illegal fisherman escaping to the sanctuary of the high seas to evade capture – and we have to do it soon,” Parker said.

Parker recognized that Palau is rich in many things, “but it cannot fight IUU alone.”

Yesterday’s demonstration, according to Parker, proved that by adopting state of the art 21st century technology, Palau can achieve the ability to clearly identify IUU fishing vessels.