Palau police shoot Chinese fisherman, police plane feared lost

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sand sculpture at a Palauan beach for the celebration of the shark sanctuary
Image: Manuae.

Over the course of the weekend, Palau's police shot a Chinese fisherman believed to be illegally fishing in the economic zone of the tiny Micronesian nation. Three police staff, who were patrolling territorial waters in search of the Chinese fishing mothership, are feared missing as their plane was not heard from in over forty-eight hours.

The shooting occurred after the police tried to contact the boat and warn them to leave Palau's territorial water, and subsequent warning shots being fired to again warn the boat away from the area.

Five Chinese fishermen were arrested following the shooting, and were charged with illegal fishing and unlawful entry. They may face up to two years in jail and be required to pay a US$50,000 fine if found guilty of entering Palau illegally.

Palau's Ministry of Justice
Image: Abasaa.

Police officer Helenda Oimei is quoted by the Agence France-Presse in affidavit as saying, "The confrontation included an officer involved shooting and one of the six individuals on the green fishing boat later succumbed to injuries he obtained during the confrontation."

Palau President Johnson Toribiong has spoken to the press about the missing plane, confirming the police plane was believed to have crashed and that a pilot and two police officers are amongst the missing. The president is quoted by the Agence France-Presse as saying in regards to what the police plane occupants were doing, "They left on a police mission to film the area where a [Chinese] mothership involved in the raid of Kayangel State's marine resources was burned by its own crew to destroy the ship and its cargo. Officer Earl Decherong, one of the two police officers on board, using a radio telephone, called to say they were gliding to make a water landing and that they could see no light or land." An extensive search thus far failed to find the crash site.

Home to world's first and largest shark sanctuary that was created in 2009 and is 630,000 square kilometers in size, Palau actively guards this territory.