Environmental writer Lance Leonhardt documented the story of these efforts
in an article published in 1998 in Rodale's Scuba Diving Magazine, a leading
North American dive publication that has since been renamed Scuba Diving
Biologist Ron Leidich led a petition drive to inform community members and
visiting divers of the unheralded destruction of Palau's sharks. A study
then followed that conclusively showed the value and importance of sharks to
Palau's tourism-based economy. Study findings were presented in a report to
the Palau National Congress, inspiring draft legislation to ban shark
finning and other destructive fishing practices in Palau.
Concerned citizens and community members enlisted the support of Palauan
Noah Idechong, a former PEW Fellow, Delegate to Palau's National Congress
(OEK) and a founding member of Palau Conservation Society, who was already
engaged in legislative efforts to end the destruction of Palau's sharks.
Delegate Idechong championed the cause of shark protection and played a
leading role in the eventual passage by Palau of some of the toughest shark
protection legislation in the world.
Leidich later authored "Blue Corner Diver" an educational course for scuba
divers on shark behavior at "Blue Corner", Palau's world-renowned dive site
famous for its' large schools of resident sharks. Leidich's program was
subsequently approved as a Continuing Education course by PADI, the largest
international diver training agency, and became the very first "PADI Blue
Corner Diver Distinctive Specialty Course".
Another marine biologist Ethan Daniels served as dive guide to a film crew
from the Discovery Channel "Shark Week" program that documented the plight
of Palau's dwindling shark population. Guided by marine biologist Daniels,
the film crew visited many of Palau's best know dives sites studying shark
behavior and documented the noticeable decrease in the once abundant schools
With assistance from biologist Leidich and other concerned local community
members, the Shark Week film crew made an unannounced visit to a foreign
fishing vessel unloading in Malakal Port, catching a surprised crew with
holds full of shark carcasses and shark fins from numerous shark species.
While shark fishing and finning was not illegal the ships manifest presented
to Palau Customs officials declared the cargo as tuna and other permitted
catch, thereby committing the offence of falsifying records. The airing of
Shark Week caused considerable outcry both in Palau and overseas against
this destruction of Palau's natural resources, generating further support
for legislation to end shark finning in Palau's waters.
In 2009 Delegate Idechong was re-elected to represent the State of Ngiwal in
Palau's National Congress (OEK). He remains active in the Palau Conservation
Leidich continues his quest to educate the public about Palau's marine
environment through popular public lectures and weeklong environmental
education tours that he leads throughout Palau. Leidich has been featured in
numerous magazine articles including Islands Magazine, November 2002 issue.
He resides in Palau with his Palauan wife and family.
Biologist Ethan Daniels went on to become a National Science Officer for the
Republic of Palau, representing the country at international conferences on
conservation and environmental issues. He returned to the U.S. to engage in
scientific research on Antarctica. An accomplished underwater photographer,
Daniels has published his work in books and posters on marine life in Palau
and most recently is a field editor for many leading dive publications. He
is a frequent visitor to Palau.
Dermot Keane went on to launch the Palau Shark Sanctuary in November 2001,
to continue the fight to end shark finning in Palau and round the world. He
resides in Palau with his Palauan wife and family.