The Helen Reef Ranger team of five (5), led by Sr. Officer Hercules Amelio, apprehended and detained a twenty-eight-man crew Chinese vessel off the southwest coast of Helen Reef. The 80-foot Chinese vessel had sent out its crew in 6 smaller vessels to collect sea cucumbers from the Helen Reef Marine Protected Area, a no-take zone. Using the training and resources provided by OneReef, the rangers were able to safely approach the illegal poachers, resist their offers of bribery, and report the illicit vessel to Marine Law Enforcement on the mainland (about 400 miles away). When the bribe was first offered and turned down, the bribe was increased to five times what the rangers earn yearly! The ranger team monitored the ship while awaiting back-up, and their resolute action resulted in the ship being captured the next morning by Palau’s new Guardian-class patrol boat with a 19-man crew. This is reportedly the first time a Chinese crew has been intercepted and detained in Palau’s territorial waters. Although Chinese vessels have been spotted fishing illegally, they have evaded capture by leaving before patrol boats can arrive to detain them.
This is a momentous achievement for the Helen Reef rangers and the Tobi community. The Tobi community rangers, stationed on the remote island of Helen Reef for three consecutive months, face isolation and unsafe conditions away from their families. But they are highly motivated and dedicated to protecting their remote atoll’s marine environment and in the responsible stewardship of their islands. The enforcement program at Helen Reef has been very successful in deterring poaching. As a result, the reef has shown remarkable increases in the abundance and size of key fish species.
OneReef’s partnership with the Tobi community and rangers is not possible without your support, so together, we have brought about this positive ending to a poaching incident!