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The Palau Conservation Officers Alliance (PCOA) along with officers from the Division of Fish and Wildlife were in Ngiwal State on April 26 for a joint site visit/confiscation operation. The occasion was a follow-up to the training sessions held at the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) in early April, explained PCOA volunteer and Tobi State Delegate Wayne Andrew.
After testing the conservation law officers on the laws they would be enforcing on a state-level, it was decided that additional training in state and national conservation laws would be beneficial.
“They really took it upon themselves to develop a better understanding of the laws they were enforcing… They decided what they could do was go from state to state. They could do a site visit, visited these protected areas, get to meet the conservation officers and the people in the state. Learn what’s going on by physically seeing the area,” explained Delegate Andrew.
Following the April training sessions, the alliance of officers was formally formed and an executive group was selected from those in attendance. The group’s chairman, Ismael Renguul from Ngiwal, offered to host their initial site visit. The Division of Fish and Wildlife was invited as well, allowing the conservation law officers an opportunity to further develop their partnership.
“I believe this site visit was something they were planning in coordination with Fish and Wildlife,” stated Delegate Andrew. “From my understanding, there were members of his [Renguul] community who he’d warned about fishing in the protected areas. So when we went there, it was a site visit as well as an operation.”
The site visit began with a briefing from the Ngiwal State officers. They were informed about the state laws, current legislation and locations of Ngiwal’s protected areas. PCOA and Fish and Wildlife officers were divided into teams to tour the protected areas, then commenced with the confiscation.
The joint operation between PCOA and the Division of Fish and Wildlife resulted in the confiscation of twelve mangrove crab traps, one speed boat and one canoe. Of the confiscated traps, five were live (meaning their were baited) and two contained mangrove crabs.
Following the operation, officers undertook procedural training– mainly in evidence-collecting and report-writing. The uniformed PCOA officers (uniforms having been presented to them at their post-training Culmination Ceremony in April) also toured the hamlets and met with locals and Ngiwal Governor Masasinge Arurang. He offered his support and encouragement to the alliance, reminding them that their job was not about boundaries– but about working for the future generations.
The PCOA’s next site visit is scheduled for May 27 and is slated to take place in Ngerchelong State. This ongoing effort is supported and coordinated by the Palau Locally Managed Marine Area Network (Palau LMMA), Pacific Islands Marine Protected Areas Community (PIMPAC) and Micronesian Conservation Trust (MCT).