Edition 9 of October, 2009


(6-A) ~ Fishery Laws / Quotas ~ [A1]~General, [A2]~Alaska, [A3]~Australia, [A4]~Bermuda, [A5]~Canada, [A6]~South America, [A7]~Europe, [A8]~Japan, [A10]~US ~ New England, [A11]~US,
(6-B) ~ Fishery Treaties ~ [B1]~Treaty Enforcement, [B2]~Treaties dealing with Over-fishing, [B3]~Antarctica, [B4]~Drift Nets, [B5]~GATT, [B6]~Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, [B7]~Law of the Sea (EEZs), [B8]~Magnuson Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, [B9]~Marine Mammals, [B10]~North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, [B11]~North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, [B12]~Ocean Dumping, [B13]~Pacific Salmon Commission, [B14]~Wellington Convention, [B15]~International Coral Reef Initiative,
(6-C) ~ Fishery Politics / Conflicts ~ [C1]~Miscellaneous, [C2]~Data Fudging, [C3]~International Conflicts, [C4]~Pacific-Northwest Legal Battles over Salmon, [C5]~Implementation of the 1996 Magnusen-Stevens Act, [C6]~European Community, [C7]~Drift Nets, [C8]~Endangered Species Acts (ESA), [C9]~Scientists Over-ruled by Politicians, [C10]~Tragedies of the Commons, [C11]~Whaling, [C12]~Trawlers, [C13]~US Regional Fishery Management Councils, [C14]~Saltwater Recreational Fishing, [C15]~Fishery Law Enforcement
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NOTE: The notation (su5) means that the data is used in the document analyzing the sustainability of the productivity of the world's food, fiber and water supply systems. (See elsewhere in this website.)

SECTION (6-A) ~ Fishery Laws / Quotas ~ [A1]~General, [A2]~Alaska, [A3]~Australia, [A4]~Bermuda, [A5]~Canada, [A6]~South America, [A7]~Europe, [A8]~Japan, [A10]~US~New England, [A11]~US,

[A1] ~ Fishery Laws/ Quotas ~ General ~

("No-Take") Worldwide, less than 1% of ocean waters have "no-take" protection, according to the Conservation Law Foundation and other environmental agencies. That group and others recently conducted a poll that found 74 % of New Englanders support protected zones (02D1).

(Shark Finning) The practice of cutting fins off sharks and throwing the carcasses back into the ocean is still legal in Hawaii and elsewhere around the world (98M4).

(Burden of Proof) Paul Dayton (Scripps Inst. of Oceanography) proposed to solve the over-fishing problem by shifting the burden of fisheries management from regulators to users. Rather than assume that fisheries are not being destroyed until proven to be endangered (which is the common practice) he proposes that commercial fishing boats be required to prove that they do not cause damage before being allowed to use public marine resources (98K1).

(WTO) The WTO (World Trade Organization) is deciding whether a US ban on shrimp caught without special devices to protect endangered sea turtles violates international trade rules. The US previously lost two earlier cases in which the US sought to ban Mexican tuna caught in nets that trap and kill dolphins. Under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) (predecessor of WTO) nations are permitted "to take measures to protect animal life and health" and "protect natural resources". However other nations contend that sea turtles are not natural resources (Wall Street Journal (7/15/97)).

(Tuna Quotas) Jean-Michel Cousteau indicts the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) for subverting sustainable management of Atlantic bluefin tuna. ICCAT's 20-year plan to rebuild tuna populations calls for cutting in half the long-accepted numerical goal" of rebuilding the population to mid-1970s levels "while increasing catch quotas ~ a formula, Cousteau says, "virtually assures the species wholesale destruction" (LA Times (8/18/99)).

(Seal Quotas) The recommended harp seal quota for the western ice fields (Jan Mayen area) has been increased from 13,100 to 17,500 (97U7). The harp seal population (presumably for the western ice fields ~ Jan Mayen area) is estimated at 400,000 aged 1+ year(s), writes 'Aftenposten' (98U7).

(Seal Quotas) Based on 1997 surveys of the hooded seal population in the Western ice breeding patches, analyses indicated that the quota should be reduced. As a result of this, and as a precautionary measure, the quota was reduced from 9,000 in 1997 to 5,000 in 1998 (98U7).

[A2] ~ Fishery Laws/Quotas ~ Alaska ~

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) set the 2009 catch level for Pacific whiting (a.k.a. hake) at 184,000 metric tonnes, vs. 364,842 tonnes in 2008 (09L1). Pacific whiting stocks declined 89% between 1984 and 2009 (09L1).

(Pollock Quotas ~ Alaska) Pollock is Alaska's most valuable fishery, worth about $670 million annually. Since the late 1960s, Alaska's(?) Steller sea lion population slipped 70%, to fewer than 40,000 (98S2). Sea lions' primary prey is pollock. In the same waters where fishermen pull one million metric tons of pollock, sea lions are undernourished and population continues to fall. As much as 80% of the pollock catch comes from critical sea lion habitat. In the rich fishing ground in the southeast Bering Sea near Dutch Harbor, as much as 80% of western pollock catch is taken. Almost all of that area is critical sea lion habitat. NMFS wants to cut the catch in that area by 20%. (98S2) Under rules approved 12/20/98, the factory trawler catch in southeast Bering Sea near Dutch Harbor during winter will be cut roughly in half. Because of safety concerns for small-boat fishermen and the needs of processing plants for fish caught near shore, small trawlers will still be able to get at least 70% of their catch from off Dutch Harbor. The entire Aleutian Island pollock catch (25,000 tons/ year) was shut down (98S2).

(Crab) The North Pacific crab industry has collapsed, and an 80% catch reduction has been imposed (00S1).

(Alaska Salmon) In Alaska, regulators set annual catch quotas for every species. Alaska salmon (a different fishery than Pacific salmon) were once seriously depleted, but strict controls have produced what most observers consider the world's best-managed, most sustainable salmon fishery (01C1).

[A3] ~ Fishery Laws/ Quotas ~ Australia ~

(ITQs) Rents for the use of fishing grounds range from 11-60% of the gross value of the catch, with a weighted average rent of 30% of the catch (Ref. 90 of (93W1)). One idea being tried to deal with the tragedy-of-the-commons problem is Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs), given or sold as a percentage of the total allowable catch. This is more efficient than limits on boat size, number, technology, or time at sea, all of which invite costly dodges (95F1). Comments: It is argued by some that since EEZs do not work to prevent over-fishing, there is little reason for believing that ITQs would work either. There is a tendency to place heavy discounts on the future, future harvests, etc.

[A4] ~ Fishery Laws/ Quotas ~ Bermuda ~

The Bermuda government, in 1972, passed a law (the 1972 Fisheries Act) requiring fishermen to submit statistics on the weights of each species caught (93B2).

[A5] ~ Fishery Laws/ Quotas ~ Canada ~

Earlier in 2008, Canada put the Atlantic cod on its endangered species list (08G1).

(Cod) In Canada, the cod population crashed so completely that an 8-year-long total ban on cod fishing has failed to bring it back (01C1).

(Cod) The government ordered a suspension of cod fishing for 1994 in most areas off Canada's east coast. The government also imposed tight limits on fishing for pollock, haddock, redfish and plaice (93U2). The government imposed a 2-year ban on fishing of northern cod off Canada's east coast, jeopardizing the jobs of 20,000 fishermen. Earlier in 1992, the government reduced the cod catch of large off-shore fishing trawlers by 35%, to 120,000 tonnes/ year (92T1).

[A6] ~ Fishery Laws/ Quotas ~ South America ~

[A6a] ~ South America ~ Chile ~

In the port of Puerto Montt, over-fishing of the southern lake has resulted in the imposition of a strict quota system. Local fishermen now fish no more than 4 days/ month. The biggest chunk of the quota was given to 3 factory trawlers that export their catch (Wall Street Journal, 11/20/97).

[A6b] ~ South America ~ Peru ~

Peru has limited additions to its fishing fleet (Ref. 12 of (94P3)).

[A7] ~ Fishery Laws/Quotas ~ Europe ~

In September of 2007 the European Commission banned the fishing of endangered bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean for the rest of 2007 (08R1).

Members of the EU agreed in 1997 to reduce fish catches in many of the region's fisheries by 20% or more in an effort to avert their collapse (97B2).

At the Norwegian Whalers' Union annual meeting it was announced that in 1999, whalers will be allowed to take a maximum of 753 animals, up from 671 in 1998 (of which 624 were taken). Scientists say an annual harvest of about 2,000 would be sustainable." The two minke whale stocks harvested are estimated to total 184,000 ~ 112,000 in the Northeast Atlantic and 72,000 in the Central Atlantic (High North Web News (11/27/98)).

British fishermen balked at some of the biggest European Union (EU) fish quota cuts in years. The quota for Irish Sea cod was cut by 60%, North Sea cod by 39%, and haddock by 13%. "The cuts leave the UK about 50 million pounds ($81 million) worse off than 1998, out of a total revenue of about 660 million British pounds ($1= 0.619 Pound) (99G2).

The European Union is ready to take drastic conservation measures to save stocks of North Sea cod and other commercial species that appear to be in severe danger of collapse. North Sea cod stocks are close to the minimum needed to sustain the species (AP (11/17/00)).

[A8] ~ Fishery Laws/ Quotas ~ Japan ~

If a company wants to build along the coast, local fishers have the right to block the plans or demand compensation (Ref. 145 of (94W3)).

In 1981, Japan prohibited drift-net use within 400 miles of the main Japanese islands (90L1).

[A10] ~ Fishery Laws/ Quotas ~ US ~ New England ~

Haddock is off limits in fisheries starting 1/3/94. So too is an entire section (2,650 sq. miles) of Georges Bank, east of Cape Cod, until 6/1/94. This closure was made by the NMFS (94M1). The US Commerce Dept. moved to prohibit commercial fishing in 17% of the total fishing area off the coast of New England (Tim Noah, Wall Street Journal, 12/8/94).

Among the most troubled US fisheries are the fabled cod sought by Gloucester fishermen in the Gulf of Maine. For nearly a decade, cod stocks here have remained at near-record lows despite major repair efforts, including a $25 million government buyout that shrank the size of the fishing fleet by 79 vessels; the closure of a 5000-square-mile area of the Gulf of Maine and adjacent Georges Bank to all bottom fishing; and, at one point, limiting an individual fisherman to 30 pounds of cod per trip ~ 2-3 fish, on average (01C1).

[A11] ~ Fishery Laws/ Quotas ~ United States ~

When the US Congress passed strict new conservation mandates in 1996 to stop the over-fishing of groundfish, it was assumed that this vital commercial fishery would be well on its way to recovery by now. Not even close. The Sustainable Fisheries Act in 1996 had all the necessary ingredients to restore devastated groundfish fisheries in New England, Alaska and the West Coast ~ strategies to rebuild depleted stocks, to minimize incidental catching of threatened species and to protect essential fish habitat. Yet the law hasn't worked, primarily because the federal fishery managers in charge of setting harvests have chosen to err on the side of harvest rather than doing objective analyses or weighing on the side of caution. (Continued below)

The National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency with final authority over the nation's ocean fisheries, also should share the blame for the collapse of the groundfish fishery because it did not reject harvest plans that didn't measure up to the mandates of the act. It's not too late for Congress to put more teeth into the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, thus forcing the federal fisheries agency and the eight fisheries management councils to embrace the strict conservation mandates of the 1996 law. (Continued below)

US taxpayers have spent $160 million since 1994 without seeing much benefit. The US Congress is being asked to appropriate another $421 million in federal disaster relief for the thousands of fishermen affected by the recent crab, salmon and groundfish stock collapses. This is a disaster of dramatic proportions for coastal fishermen. Estimates of economic losses range from $3 -$15 million in coastal communities in Oregon, Washington and California. On the other hand, it could take up to 30 years for ailing groundfish populations to fully recover to a point that their numbers could sustain a robust fishery again ("Lost at sea: Groundfish," Portland Oregonian editorial (3/25/00).).

The US is prohibited by the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act (ATCA) from decreasing quotas for tunas and swordfish for US fishermen below the level set by ICCAT. ICCAT has consistently refused to lower quotas to levels that will allow rebuilding (99M5).

The federal (US) government delegates most regulatory decisions to eight regional fishery-management councils, made up mainly of representatives from the fishing industry and government, with others from environmental and consumer groups. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) can overrule fishery-council decisions but does so only rarely, preferring to rely on consensus (01C1).

Conservationists and biologists say a 1996 US law directing the NMFS to eliminate over-fishing and reduce by-catch is not being properly implemented (Business Week, 12/29/98).

The National Academy of Science has recommended that the US expand its currently small system of protected marine reserves. According to a National Research Council report, current management, which focuses on fishing limits, is insufficient to protect ocean ecosystems from the growing stresses of human activity (AP, 11/9/00).

In June, 2002, a federal fisheries panel announced that West Coast fisheries will face a set of sweeping limits far more drastic than what New England experienced. The West Coast fishing closures are more abrupt, with a bigger economic hit. They will leave 10,000 square miles off-limits to bottom fishing. The closures likely will last far longer: decades rather than years (02C1). The abundance of many fish that live near the ocean floor, like Pacific red snapper and rock cod, are below 10% of historic levels due to over-fishing. Their recovery to even 40% of historic numbers will take decades, assuming all goes well (02C1). How did we get into this mess? First, we did not balance technology and stewardship. In the 1980s, tax breaks doubled the size of fishing fleets, and new technology such as fish sonar and stronger nets quadrupled efficiency. Yet, the US government's inability and lack of political will to manage shrinking ocean resources failed to keep pace with the dramatically increasing fishing capacity (02C1).

President Clinton issued an order establishing the 84 million-acre Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve on 12/4/00. The reserve stretches for 1200 miles along islands and reefs from Hawaii to Midway atoll. It provides habitat for a variety of species and also helps save coral reefs and wildlife in the area. The Pacific Ocean reserve, at 99,500 square nautical miles ~ as large as Florida and Georgia combined ~ contains nearly 70% of US coral reefs, as well as pristine remote islands, atolls and submerged lagoons. To protect the reefs, the reserve bans oil and gas exploration, dumping of any material and any alternations of the seabed or coral and most sea life. Clinton's executive order also caps the already limited fishing at recent or current levels. (Jesse J. Holland, "Clinton Acts To Defend Hawaii Coral", AP (12/4/00)) (http://hawaiireef.noaa.gov/qanda/qanda.html)

Congress passed the Sustainable Fisheries Act, requiring the eight regional councils that manage the nation's marine fisheries to come up with new conservation plans by 10/98. In 3/99, 52 of the 67 required changes have been submitted. And of those, the Commerce Department has not rejected one, even though several permit the continued over-fishing of depleted species. Of the more than 850 species "managed" by the federal government, 300 have been studied in detail. And of those, one-third are over-fished or on the edge. The NMFS continues to put its faith in the belated conservation efforts of fishery councils, each of which is dominated by commercial fishing interests (99U3).

In 1972 the Marine mammal Protection Act (MMPA) established a moratorium in taking of marine animals in US waters, as well as the importation of marine mammals and marine-mammal products into the US. The MMPA shifted marine mammal management authority to the federal government (http://www.nmfs.gov/tmcintyr/mmpatext/mmpacont.html).

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary law governing management of US marine fishery resources, was amended in 1996 to prohibit over-fishing, rebuild over-fished stocks, and minimize "by-catch", the accidental take of non-target species (AOC press release of 5/11/98).

In 1976 the US Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act extended US marine jurisdiction to 200 miles off-shore, and vested primary federal management authority in the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) within NOAA within the Dept. of Commerce (98B2). The 200-mile fishery conservation zone was superseded by an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in March of 1983 (98B2).

An overhaul of the 1976 Magnuson Fisheries and Conservation Act was passed into law in October of 1996. It required new steps to rebuild depleted fish stocks, reduce by-catch, and protect certain fish habitats (Wall Street Journal, 9/30/96 and 9/20/96).

Oregon's bottom-fishing fleet, based in Newport, Astoria, Coos Bay and other ports, fleet sold $24 million worth of bottom fish in 2000. In the past 5 years, federal regulators have reduced the allowed harvest by over 50%. In late 2001, they adopted a goal of reducing the fleet by 50% (01B1).

Over-harvesting, poor monitoring, an oversized fleet, and changing ocean conditions have forced the Pacific Fishery Management Council to make drastic reductions in quotas for nearly every species of ground-fish. Six of the 7 species slated for cuts are rockfish, species that reproduce slowly and don't mature until 13 years or older, and can live to 100 years (Greenwire (11/17/00)).

The US adopted a ban on imports of fish caught in "drift-nets" that span as much as 30 miles of ocean (or as little at 2.5 km). The ban takes effect 7/1/92. Drift-netting nations include France, Japan, Taiwan, North Korea and South Korea (91U1). In the 1980s, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Peru banned large drift nets in their waters (90L1).

S.1221, introduced in September 1997 by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) would:

(Gulf Coast) The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is not issuing new licenses and is buying back existing ones in an attempt to reduce the amount of fishing pressure in coastal bays (00L1).

(Northern shrimp quotas) On 10/28/99, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Northern Shrimp Section set season regulations for 2000, with fishing time reduced 43% to 51 days at sea ~ 1/17/00 through 3/15/00, due to concern for over-fishing and continued stock declines (99B1).

(Groundfish quotas) The US Secretary of Commerce issued a regulation (1/1/98) requiring commercial fishers to reduce, by up to 65%, their hauls of 83 species of groundfish (fish that tend to be found near the ocean bottom such as black cod, ling cod, dover sole, and various rockfish). Groundfish represent 50-60% of the total value of California's commercial fish harvest. Even with the new restrictions, it may take 30-40 years for some of the most hard-hit species to rebound to healthy levels (97C1).

(Rockfish Quotas) The NMFS has imposed measures to rebuild West Coast US rockfish populations, commercially sold as red snapper. Federal scientists estimate numbers of the 5 rockfish species as low as 5% of historic levels (Los Angeles Times, 12/7/99).

(Atlantic Sturgeon fishing Ban) On 5/27/99, the NMFS extended bans on fishing for Atlantic sturgeon in federal waters from Maine to Florida to protect these severely depleted stocks until they recover. The action is in addition to an Atlantic states coast-wide sturgeon-fishing ban in state waters that was started in 1998. Because the sturgeon population is so stressed, and since it can take more than 15 years for females to reach breeding age, it may take up to 40 years before these fish return to fishable numbers (99M3).

(Swordfish quotas) The NMFS proposes to reduce the 1997 North Atlantic swordfish quota to 2458 tonnes dressed-weight (mtdw) (2393 in 1998, 2327 in 1999). A separate South Atlantic swordfish quota is proposed for 187.5 mtdw. The latest scientific evidence confirms that the North Atlantic swordfish stock is over-exploited. Scientists estimate the population is at 58% of its optimal level, and average fish-size landed has declined to 90 lb. vs. 266 lb. in 1967 (Joyce Gross, American Oceans Campaign, Fishlink memo of 7/23/97).

(Swordfish quotas) The Commerce Department's NMFS has made final regulations that ban the sale and import of undersized North Atlantic swordfish beginning 6/17/99. The new rules ban imports of Atlantic swordfish less than 33 pounds, dressed weight, and require seafood importers to obtain permits that allow them to buy and sell swordfish. South Atlantic and Pacific swordfish stocks are considered fully utilized. Atlantic swordfish are managed internationally through the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, consisting of 22 member nations. More than 30 countries harvest North Atlantic swordfish (99A1).

(Long-line fishing ban) Proposals by the NMFS and the US Congress would ban long-line fishing in large areas of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. The move is designed to conserve rapidly declining populations of "highly migratory species," swordfish, billfish, tuna and shark (New Orleans Times-Picayune reports 12/27/99).

(Fishing Vessel Size) The US Congress enacted measures in 1997 to prohibit entry of large-scale fishing vessels into two important East Coast fisheries for Atlantic herring and mackerel (98G1).

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SECTION (6-B) ~ Fishery Treaties ~ [B1]~Treaty Enforcement, [B2]~Treaties dealing with Over-fishing, [B3]~Antarctica, [B4]~Drift Nets, [B5]~GATT, [B6]~Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, [B7]~Law of the Sea (EEZs), [B8]~Magnuson Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, [B9]~Marine Mammals, [B10]~North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, [B11]~North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, [B12]~Ocean Dumping, [B13]~Pacific Salmon Commission, [B14]~Wellington Convention, [B15]~International Coral Reef Initiative,

[B1] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ Treaty Enforcement ~

Developing countries do not have the resources to enforce the international agreements and laws within their own boundaries (98K1).

[B2] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ Treaties dealing with Over-fishing ~

Threats posed by excess fishing capacity to the world's fish stocks have been acknowledged in major international agreements, including the UN Agreement on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and Straddling Fish Stocks and the FAO Code for Responsible Fishing (98D1).

The EU agreed in 1997 to a 5-year package of measures designed to reduce the capacity of its fleet ~ the so-called Multi-annual Guidance Program (MAGP IV) (98U1).

[B3] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ Antarctica ~

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) regulates the removal of marine life in the southern ocean (except whales and seals that are covered by other treaties).

[B4] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ Drift Nets ~

Since the 12/31/92 international moratorium on drift nets larger than 2.5 km., only Taiwan and Italy have continued to use drift nets on the high seas; Taiwan in the South Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans; Italy in the Mediterranean Sea (Ref. 15 of (94P3)).

[B5] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ GATT ~

Mexican fishing boats catch tuna "on dolphin", using nets that encircle both dolphins and the mature yellowfin tuna that swim under them. In the US, tuna caught in this way are banned. But in 1991 GATT found this blockage of tuna imports inappropriate (93F1).

The 4/7/98 Journal of Commerce reported that the World Trade Organization (WTO) recently ruled that US sea turtle protection laws violates WTO rules. (The turtle law restricts importation of shrimp unless caught with nets fitted with turtle excluder devices. Comments: The National Wildlife Federation contends that this decision means that free trade interests over-ride environmental protection efforts in all cases.

[B6] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission ~

IATTC (France, Japan, Nicaragua, Panama and the US were original signators) was founded in 1950 to study the biology of the tuna and related species in the eastern Pacific with a view to determine the effects of fishing and natural factors on the abundance of various species (87M1).

[B7] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ Law of the Sea (EEZs) ~

About 64% of the world's oceans are outside the Exclusive Economic Zones of any countries. These waters are instead the jurisdiction of all nations ~ effectively under the management of the UN ("Scientists Call for Bottom Trawl Halt - Biologically rich seamounts and sponge colonies threatened by fishing practice", Tidepool (2/17/04)).

The Law of the Sea was a UN-mediated treaty. The first set of negotiations was in 1958. The third set of negotiations (1973-82) expanded the territorial sea from 3-12 nautical miles, and created a 200-nautical mile coastal area called the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) within which the coastal country had exclusive rights to the natural resources (93W1), (93B1), (87M1). This third Law of the Sea has never been ratified, but has become part of customary ocean laws (Ref. 70 of (93W1)). Over 120 countries indicated support for the Law of the Sea in 1983, but the number that have ratified it is still 3 short of the 60 needed for passage (Ref. 73 of (93W1)).

One problem with this approach: highly migratory fish stocks (e.g. tuna, swordfish) that migrate across political boundaries, and straddling fish stocks (e.g. cod, pollock) that are primarily within EEZs but extend into high seas or cross zones, constitute nearly 15% of the world's total marine catch (16 million tons in 1994) (World Watch, 8(5) (1995) p. 8).

Coastal nations have the authority to manage their EEZ stocks, except the 10-15% of fish that cross EEZ boundaries (Ref. 50 of (98W1)).

[B8] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ Magnuson Fisheries Conservation and Management Act ~

A loophole in the 1976 act excludes bluefin tuna from the 200-mile protective zone along shorelines (84R1).

In the 22 years since the US imposed its 200-mile ocean boundary, bouncing Soviet, Polish, Spanish, and other foreign fishing vessels from those waters, American fishing fortunes have surged and collapsed (98G2).

[B9] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ Marine Mammals ~

The first international treaty on the take of marine mammals was the 1911 Convention for the Preservation and Protection of Fur Seals that was negotiated in the face of plummeting seal populations due to uncontrolled hunting. Seal numbers increased from 125,000 in 1911 to 2,300,000 in 1941 (Ref. 81 of (93W1)).

The International Whaling Commission has approved of a 11 million mile2 whale sanctuary around Antarctica that protects more than 90% of the world's whales (5/27/94 Wall Street Journal).

The International Dolphin Conservation Act of 1992 prohibited the sale, purchase, transport, or shipment in the US of any tuna not dolphin-safe. (Gene Buck, Congressional Research Service document on Aquaculture and Marine mammals, March 1998 (GBUCK@crs.loc.gov)

Gray whales were given full protection in 1947 by the International Whaling Commission (99F1).

The moratorium on whaling may be lifted as countries drop their opposition to whaling. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) decided in 1982 to ban whaling amid concern that many whale species were endangered. Since 1987, Japan has carried out so-called "scientific whaling" in which whale meat finds its way on to the Japanese market after study of the dead mammals by scientists. Norway resumed whaling in 1993, although it does not allow international trade in whale meat (Terry Hardie, terry@orcas.net, Reuters, 4/23/99).

The end of commercial whaling began in 1946 with the creation of the International Whaling Commission. A ban on commercial whaling went into effect in 1951; the whales were listed under the ESA (US) in 1973 when the act was signed into law (99M2).

[B10] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ North Atlantic Fisheries Organization ~

NAFO imposed a moratorium on cod fishing at the Grand Banks. But if a NAFO member objects, they can ignore it and set their own quota. The EC did this in 1986, and set a quota of 68,000 tonnes of cod. EC members caught 62,000 tonnes ~ primarily Spain and Portugal (94P1).

Canada and the EU (European Union) agreed to each receiving 10,000 tonnes/ year of turbot (Greenland halibut) quota set by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization for the Grand Banks fishing grounds off the coast of Newfoundland. The organization's other members (e.g. Russia, Japan) will receive the remaining 7000 tonnes/ year of the quota (27,000 tonnes/ year) (95T1). The 1994 catch of turbot by EU vessels (mainly Spain and Portugal) was 60,000 tons (Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 3/12/95).

The Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) was founded in 1959 with member countries Belgium, Denmark, France, West Germany, Iceland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Soviet Union, Sweden and the UK (87M1).

[B11] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization ~

NASCO was founded in 1982. It is devoted to collecting scientific information on salmon as well as conservation, restoration, enhancement and rational management of salmon in its area of coverage. Signatories were Canada, Denmark, EEC, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the US (87M1).

[B12] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ Ocean Dumping ~

In 1988, 63 signatories of the London Dumping Accord also approved a ban on ocean incineration of toxic substances by 1994 (89L1). The 8 countries bordering the North Sea agreed in 1987 to reduce nutrient- and toxic discharges by 50% by 1995 (89L1). 39 nations have ratified an international treaty known as Annex V of MARPOL, which bans the discharge of plastics by ships. The ban went into effect in January, 1989 (89L1). The London Dumping Convention (1972) has led to a ban on the dumping of extremely hazardous materials (radioactive wastes, heavy metals (Cd, Hg) and synthetic materials into the oceans (89L1).

[B13] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ Pacific Salmon Commission ~

PSC, founded in 1985, has as its objective the control of over-fishing of salmon in the Pacific Ocean and the management of the fishing rights of the two signatory countries; Canada and US (87M1). The US and Canada signed the Pacific Salmon Treaty around 1985 (95B2).

[B14] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ Wellington Convention ~

This convention banned drift-net fishing in the South Pacific Ocean as of 5/17/91. Australia is seeking to extend the ban to the Indian Ocean where the Taiwanese fishing fleet still uses drift-nets (91U2).

[B15] ~ Fishery Treaties ~ International Coral Reef Initiative ~

The US Department of State, in co-operation with USAID, proposed the idea of an International Coral Reef Initiative in 1994. Seven other governments joined the US: Australia, France, Japan, Jamaica, the Philippines, Sweden and the UK (97H3).

Go to Top of this Section~Fishery Treaties
Go to Top of this Chapter~Fishery Laws, Treaties, Politics, Conflicts
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SECTION (6-C) ~ Fishery Politics / Conflicts ~ [C1]~Miscellaneous, [C2]~Data Fudging, [C3]~International Conflicts, [C4]~Pacific-Northwest Legal Battles over Salmon, [C5]~Implementation of the 1996 Magnusen-Stevens Act, [C6]~European Community, [C7]~Drift Nets, [C8]~Endangered Species Acts (ESA), [C9]~Scientists Over-ruled by Politicians, [C10]~Tragedies of the Commons, [C11]~Whaling, [C12]~Trawlers, [C13]~US Fishery Management Councils, [C14]~Saltwater Recreational Fishing, [C15]~Fishery Law Enforcement,

[C1] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ Miscellaneous ~

Numerous past and present commercial fishermen appointed to the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) have logged their own share of federal fisheries violations resulting in fines in the tens of thousands of dollars. Indeed in one example alone, a council member from Maine was cited six times between 1996-2002 while a voting member of the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC). The former council member is still fishing. Not only have none of the fined council members ever faced any jail time, but there was never any action to remove any of them from the council ("New England region desperately needs fisheries reform", The Standard-Times (1/21/06).)

A study by Environmental Justice Foundation and Greenpeace in 2006 found that 50% of the vessels off the coast of Guinea were fishing illegally, or were involved in illegal practices (08R1).

In 1995, the US Congress created a program to buy up commercial fishing permits and vessels in areas where the fish population was in decline from environmental factors and over-fishing. But the GAO found much of the $140 million used to pay some people not to fish didn't stop other people from catching the same fish. In the New England program, where federal funds bought up fishing permits and ships, the GAO found that the effort stopped 79 vessels from fishing. But 62 previously inactive vessels that already had permits took their place. The US GAO also found that some fishermen used money from the program to upgrade other ships they already owned so they could land more fish. Others simply took the money and then switched to catching lobster, despite the fact that the lobster fishery is having similar problems. In Washington state, where the feds tried to help salmon recover, the US GAO found that most of the fishermen who stopped catching salmon would have done so with or without the federal subsidy, because prices for salmon were declining. In 1999, a congressionally mandated study summarized the results of several salmon buy-back programs from the 1970s this way: "The programs had little effect on fishing capacity. Many of the retired vessels were marginal. Because many fishermen held more than one license, funds frequently were used to upgrade other vessels." A 1997 Canadian study found the same thing. (Continued below)

An emergency spending bill signed into law in early July 2000 contains $50 million for new buy-backs with many of the same problems the US GAO study identified. Last week, the US Department of Agriculture released the results of a new study of markets for farm products, another lesson in supply and demand. Every year, Congress insists on subsidizing crops such as corn and soybeans because farmers are suffering from low prices. With subsidies guaranteed, farmers plant more, ensuring that prices fall again. The USDA's report concludes that falling prices caused by such planting decisions earlier this year will cost an extra $1 billion in subsidies (FISH Unlimited - A Global Leader in Fisheries Conservation, 1 Brander Parkway, Box 1073, Shelter Island, NY 11965 631-749-3474-p 631-749-3476-f www.fishunlimited.org fishunlimited@hamptons.com Wasted spending? Just look at this" USA Today of about 7/19/00)

The US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is buried in the Commerce Department that largely deals with manufactured commodities. No Secretary of Commerce has had a background in natural resource issues (94S1).

Unilever, which controls 20% of the whitefish market in Europe and the US, has agreed to buy only fish caught and produced in an environmentally sustainable manner (99M1).

The NMFS has had no leadership under any administration or party, and since the '70s all they have set out to do is build up the US fishing fleet only to buy it back because of over capitalization without any idea of how much fish is out there. We need a substantial turn around in our resource, but Congress is just listening to the large trawler organizations, seafood processors, and National Fishing Institute representing their financial needs (00S1).

Congress ceded rights to the nation's biggest-dollar seafood harvest to Bering Sea trawl-vessel operators and processors. The legislation grants exclusive rights to the pollock harvest, which yields $700 million annually in processed products. The beneficiaries include Seattle-based fishing companies and Alaska Native groups. Japanese-owned processors also have a big stake in the harvest. Though pollock is a public resource, a House-Senate conference committee awarded the rights without any requirements for royalty payments to the federal government. The rights initially were granted for a five-year period that was to end in 2004. But without congressional hearings, US Senator Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, added to a broad spending bill language that eliminated the sunset date. Both houses of Congress passed the bill last week, sending it to President Bush for his signature (01B2). (Continued below)

The pollock harvest and processing rights are potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the companies that now hold them. Some operators already are earning money by leasing shares. Industry vessels use large trawl nets to scoop the white-fleshed pollock that swim in enormous schools in the Bering Sea. Critics of the new legislation say it will be much more difficult to get royalty payments now that the pollock rights are vested indefinitely. "We think there should be some return to the public in exchange for these exclusive rights," said Dorothy Childers of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, which represents Alaska conservationists and some small-boat fishermen. "The whole point of having a sunset date is that you have the leverage to make changes" (01B2). (Continued below)

The 1998 legislation - known as the American Fisheries Act (AFA) - ended years of infighting between sectors of the fleet and made dramatic changes to the Bering Sea pollock harvest that unfolds in a remote 200-mile zone off Alaska coasts. The old system involved free-for-all harvest, with each vessel racing to claim as much fish as possible in seasons kept short to prevent over-fishing. Industry officials say the fast pace of the competitive harvest led to waste and increased safety risks. The 1998 legislation offered $75 million in federal loans to reduce the size of the pollock fleet. And - in a five-year trial period - it allowed industry groups to set up cooperatives that assign each operator shares of the pollock harvest. Industry officials say that cooperative fisheries are slower-paced, with smaller fleets and that they waste less (01B2). (Continued below)

Under the system set up by the AFA, participants in the pollock harvest will be 19 factory trawlers that catch and process pollock at sea; three ships that process pollock caught by other vessels; more than 110 vessels that catch pollock at sea, and six shore-side processing companies. They note that the federal government charges for rights to federal timber and federal grazing lands. And in the 1990s, the federal government began charging a 3% annual royalty fee to fishermen vested with quota shares of Alaska black cod and halibut (01B2).

Renegade fishermen in the Galapagos Islands have burned national park offices, threatened conservationists and tourists and occupied the giant tortoise-breeding center. The number of fishermen has doubled in the last year. They use violence and intimidation to overturn quotas on lobster fishing and open Galapagos Marine Reserve to long-line fishing for sharks and other species (Green sources, 11/20/00).

[C2] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ Data Fudging ~

Fish catches in some of the poorest nations in the world have been grossly underestimated, scientists warned yesterday. A reconstruction of actual catches in 20 places around the globe showed that fish landings that were not reported were at least as high as the declared catch, and sometimes more than 16 times higher. The global database of world fish catches is maintained by the UN FAO. It is based on voluntary declaration, and often misses subsistence and recreational fishing. The new study, presented to the 11th international coral reef symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was conducted by scientists from the Sea Around Us project, an international research group based at the University of British Columbia (08R3).

World fishery statistics may have been distorted in the 1990s because of over-reporting of fish catches by China according to research reported in the journal Nature. It found that catches have fallen by 800 million pounds per year, not risen (Wall Street Journal (11/29/01)).

Many countries under-report their fishing harvest (98P1).

Decades of misreported catches have obscured declining yields (02D5) (01W2). Comments: See Chapter 3 on China's massive over-reporting of fish harvest volumes.

[C3] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ International Conflicts ~

In early 2005, Australia seized and burned illegal fishing vessels (05O1).

In early 2005, local subsistence fishermen in the Philippines protested the loss of their traditional access rights that their government sold to foreign vessels (05O1).

In early 2005, the Sri Lankan Navy attacked Indian fishing vessels (05O1).

In late 2004 a fish war broke out in Italy when Italian boats surrounded and shot out portholes of a Croatian fishing vessel landing its catch at an Italian port. The armed assault was retribution for the Croatian government setting up a "no-go" area for foreign vessels that tend to dwarf local subsistence vessels and wipe out local fisheries in only a matter of years (05O1).

Fishing off Somalia's coastline, the longest in Africa, proceeds largely untouched by government regulation ("Somalia's struggles", Pittsburgh Post Gazette (2/26/05) p. A-14.) Comments: This means that the rest of the world can regard Somalia's fish as free for the taking.

Most of the world's fish come from waters controlled by low and middle-income countries ~ caught in large quantities by boats from developed countries operating with the aid of government subsides in the order of US$12-20 billion globally. A quadrupling of the number of people fishing has compounded the pressure from industrial fishing fleets. The extra numbers are comprised mostly of small, non-industrial fishers in developing countries seeking food, or to supplement their incomes (04V1).

During 1997 the UN reported more than 100 ongoing fishery disputes between individual nations (Ref. 6 of (98M7)) (UN data) (Wall Street Journal, 11/20/97).

Table 7 of Ref. (94W2) tabulates international conflicts over fishing grounds.

Tuna wars in the northeast Atlantic, crab wars in the North Pacific, squid wars in the southwest Atlantic, salmon wars in the North Pacific, and pollock wars in the Sea of Okhotsk (near Japan?) are all warning signs that fish stocks are in serious trouble (Lester R. Brown, "Facing Food Scarcity", Worldwatch, 8(6) (1995)).

Fish wars (96B1)
Norway vs. Iceland (cod)
Canada vs. Spain (turbot)
China vs. Marshall Islands
Argentina vs. Taiwan
Indonesia vs. Philippines
Northeast Atlantic tuna wars
North Pacific crab wars and salmon wars
South Atlantic squid wars
Sea of Okhotsh pollock wars

[C4] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ Pacific-Northwest Legal Battles over Salmon ~

In 1995, Alaska set a limit for its Chinook fishery at 230,000 (roughly same as number caught in 1994). Canada cut its limit 50%, and Washington-Oregon eliminated the majority of its ocean Chinook fishery because of low pre-season projections. This disparity of trends created a massive legal battle (95B2). Comments: According to a Washington Post article (3/30/96) Canada reduced the number of vessels fishing salmon in Canadian Pacific waters by 50% to 2200. A 4/14/97 Wall Street Journal article reports that commercial catches of coho salmon have been completely banned along the west coast of the US. ~ and notes that salmon stocks have plunged more than 90% over the past 20 years in many places.

[C5] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ Implementation of the 1996 Magnusen-Stevens Act ~

The Marine Fish Conservation Network (MFCN), a coalition of 90 environmental groups, fishing associations, and marine scientists, in its March report "Lost at Sea" alleges that the NMFS has been approving fishery management plans which do not abide by the conservation measures mandated under the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) of 1996 (00S1).

The Marine Fish Conservation Network (MFCN) argues that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) interpretations of the 1996 Magnuson-Stevens Act have fallen far short of the Congressional intent to end over-fishing, reduce by-catch and protect fish habitat. The MFCN argues that NMFS interpretations are "riddled with loopholes which, if not changed, will fail to reverse the current decline in US fisheries" (Tanya Dobrzynski, American Oceans Campaign press release of 10/9/97).

The Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 had all the necessary ingredients to restore devastated groundfish fisheries in New England, Alaska and the West Coast ~ strategies to rebuild depleted stocks, to minimize incidental catching of threatened species and to protect essential fish habitat. Yet the law hasn't worked, primarily because federal fishery managers err on the side of harvest rather than on the side of conservation when setting harvest levels. One problem that has plagued decision-making by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Alaska), and the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California) is their makeup. They're dominated by the fishing industry (00U1).

[C6] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ European Community ~

EC fishery ministers supported a proposed 40% cut in the EC's fishing fleet capacity. Legislation is expected to follow later in 1992. (Each job at sea provides 4-5 jobs on land.) (92U1).

The European Community (EC) has called for an independent scientific review to settle a dispute with Canada over who is depleting the fish stocks off Newfoundland (92B1).

[C7] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ Drift Nets ~

In 1989 the UN passed a resolution full of loopholes that asked for an end to drift-net fishing by June 30, 1992 (91C1). The UN General Assembly passed its first resolution against drift-net fishing in 1989, and renewed it in 1990 and 1991, leading to an international moratorium that went into effect 12/31/92 (Ref. 107 of (93W1)). The international moratorium on the use of drift nets grew out of activism by such groups as Greenpeace, Bering Sea Fishermen's Association, Defenders of Wildlife, et al (93W1).

[C8] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ Endangered Species Acts (ESA) ~

US federal regulators (Nat. Marine Fisheries Service) propose to protect Coho salmon along much of the Pacific Coast under the ESA. Coho numbered 1.4 million in the 19th century and 39,000 today, with much of the decline in the past decade (Charles McCoy, Wall Street Journal, 7/20/95).

1600 scientists from around the world say (in a petition) oceans are being rapidly damaged by over-fishing, pollution and coastal development. The petition urged US lawmakers to strengthen the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act (GREENLines Issue #536 of 1/7/98, Defenders of Wildlife).

A 6/99 poll found 2/3 of Alabama residents favor protecting the Alabama sturgeon under the federal Endangered Species Act. Officials with the US Fish and Wildlife Service were surprised by the poll because industry has waged a public relations campaign claiming a listing would destroy the state's economy. Both of the state's US Senators and Representative Sonny Callahan are opposed to the listing. Pat Byington of the Southern Environmental Center said the poll "shows the inordinate amount of political pressure (industry) has on public officials." (Mobile Register 7/11/99).

[C9] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ Scientists Over-ruled by Politicians ~

The US government has abdicated far too much authority to regional councils dominated by fishing interests. No other natural resource ~ not timber, not minerals, not grazing lands ~ is as heavily managed by the very people who extract that resource. Too often, regional councils concentrated on dividing up the ocean-resource pie among competing fishing interests and ignored the fact that the pie was shrinking (02C1). Fishery councils ignored scientific warnings issued as early as 1984. Instead, a stubborn pro-industry bias drove managers to require absolute proof of a collapse before restricting fishing. Such proof is now available for west coast fisheries, but it's too late to avert a crisis (02C1). Absurdly, Congress has been considering a major rollback of federal fisheries law in a last-ditch attempt to continue excessive fishing levels, even in the face of a fishery collapse. In July of 2002, the House Resources Committee voted on rolling back the protections provided in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, a good law designed to conserve and manage fisheries that would have prevented this crash had the Act been implemented properly (02C1).

When confronted with uncertainty, fishery managers have been under enormous pressure to allow continued harvest levels, and scientific advice has been discounted (Ref. 18 of (93R1)).

The Pacific Fishery Management Council, a quasi-government agency, has called for a virtual ban on salmon fishing off the coast of Washington, Oregon, and northern California (north of Point Arena, 100 miles north of San Francisco) to try to reverse a sharp fall in salmon populations. This decision must be approved by the Secretary of Commerce (Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 4/10/94). The curtailment would reduce the catch to 20% of the average annual catch over the past 15 years (92M1). (The American Fisheries Society, a group of fisheries biologists, estimates that 214 separate western US salmon populations are in trouble, including 101 facing extinction (92M1).)

In the 1980s, Canada's Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans over-estimated abundance of northern cod, and set excessive fishing limits. By 1989 the agency's scientists conceded the over-fishing and urged that the 300,000-ton/-year quota be slashed. No substantive action occurred until Atlantic Canada's two major off-shore fishing companies docked their vessels in 2/92 ~ their holds empty (Susan Pollock, Sierra Magazine (July-August 1995)).

To protect gag grouper the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted (3/99) to close an area to fishing in deep water off the west coat of Florida where gag groupers gather annually to spawn, and where male gag groupers live year-round. No fishing for reef fish would be allowed in this area. This proposal, though squarely based on science, and necessary to ensure a healthy future for gag grouper, has been stridently opposed by elements of the fishing industry. The Council is wavering in response to this pressure (Kim Davis (KDavis@flcmc.org) 6/28/99).

Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHIs) fisheries have been managed by NMFS and Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (Wespac) for the last 25 years. US laws under which Wespac was established allows for considerable conflict of interest in decision-making processes. For many years the Chair of Wespac, James Cook, was co-owner of Pacific Ocean Producers (Hawaii's largest commercial fishing supplier), co-owner of the largest fishing industry ice supplier, owner and co-owner of numerous long-line boats, owner and co-owner of commercial lobster boats, owner and co-owner of fish processing companies, etc. Mr. Cook not only has a financial interest in Hawaii's fisheries, he has been cited for violating several federal fisheries management regulations, including poaching for lobsters during the closed season, not reporting his long-line boat catch, and long-line fishing within closed areas (iharp@aloha.net 12/11/00). (Continued below)

An example of mismanagement under Wespac and NMFS can be seen in the NWHI lobster fishery. In 1982 an estimate of how many lobster could be harvested showed that about 300,000 lobster could be sustainably taken each year from the NWHIs without depleting the stocks. Over the years following the estimate, Wespac and NMFS allowed harvests to be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and even exceeded two million lobsters in two years. The lobster fishery crashed and was closed in 1993, Wespac reopened the fishery in 1994. To the fishery managers' surprise, the catch was still low. They shut the lobster fishery down again in 1995 and allowed just one boat to continue fishing under an "Experimental Permit." Again, the fishery managers were surprised that the catch was still low, so they created a new management plan. In 1996, Wespac adopted a lobster fishery plan that allowed taking egg-bearing females and under-sized lobsters. In the early years of the lobster fishery, the trap mesh (holes in the traps) was 2"x4". The mesh size was gradually reduced over time, down to 1"x1". They were catching lobster with shrimp traps, and since 1996, have been taking berried females and lobsters as small as a man's thumb (iharp@aloha.net (12/11/00)). (Continued below)

As a result of mismanagement of the lobster fishery, which included 197 bycatch species, the lobster fishery was shut down by a court action. In the mid 1980's each boat was taking thousands of pounds of octopus per trip. The octopus population was decimated. In the early years, the octopus were of a large species; 4-8 kg. From 1996-99, the entire lobster fleet caught only about 100 octopuses during the entire season. The 1997-99 catch was of a different smaller species than earlier years, which was less than one kilogram each. The lobster fishery caused the extinction of the large 4-8 kg. species (iharp@aloha.net (12/11/00)).

When New England's fisheries crashed in the 1990s, it spelled catastrophe for the northern Atlantic Ocean and the economy of many New England communities. Strong political pressure to maintain excessive fishing rates trumped scientific warnings of declining fish stocks. And the inevitable collapse of cod and other fisheries forced many families out of traditional fishing grounds. More than 5000 square miles of ocean were closed to many types of fishing (02C1).

[C10] ~ Fishery Politics/Conflicts ~ Tragedies of the Commons ~

Fish is the only food widely eaten in the developed world that is still-hunted in the wild. As such, it's vulnerable to "tragedies of the commons." That is, even though it may be in the best interests of everyone to stop fishing before a fishery collapses, it's in the best interest of the individual fisherman to catch as many fish as possible (01C1).

Under open-access, no property rights to the resource exist, and over-exploitation is highly probable. Open access resource-use is still a major problem in developing countries, which now account for more than 50% of the global fishery harvest (93R1).

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, several Pacific coast Latin American nations proclaimed that their marine jurisdictions extended 200 miles off-shore (98B2). In 1966 the US expanded its proclaimed marine jurisdiction from 3 miles to 12 miles off-shore (98B2).

In some cases, national fishery management policies have displaced local management with disastrous results (98W1).

[C11] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ Whaling ~

The US and its allies succeeded in maintaining a 13-year ban on commercial whaling at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission ~ but faced growing alienation of opponents threatening to hunt whales on their own. (AP, St. George's, Grenada (5/28/99)).

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was established in 1947 for whaling nations to use to coordinate their efforts. It did not begin to orient toward conservation until the 1970s when non-whaling nations started joining the Commission (93W1).

[C12] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ Trawlers ~

Commercial fishing nets that drag the sea floor will be banned from more than a half-million square miles of ocean near the Aleutian Islands under a government plan to protect the deep-water corals and sponges that help nurse Alaska's fishing grounds. In what easily will be the largest trawl-fishing ban in the US, the governing body that oversees commercial fishing in the North Pacific yesterday proposed a whole new approach to protecting the rocky, colorful seafloor habitat. Scientists believe the coral may help incubate a fertile fishing area that helps supply a significant portion of US seafood. The closure is nearly 9 times the size of Washington State, in a region that accounts for 5% of the commercial fish caught in Alaska. The Aleutian sea floor, scientists increasingly believe, may be the most diverse and abundant cold-water coral and sponge habitat on Earth. The decision won't be final until the council considers it again after a series of public hearings. The council's recommendation is subject to final approval by the US Secretary of Commerce. But with both the fishing industry and environmentalists largely behind it, it's unlikely to change significantly. The council also excluded other fishing gear including long strings of hooks and heavy steel traps from six coral-rich sites. Bottom trawling is already off-limits over more than 100,000 square miles in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea (Craig Welch, "Coral concerns spur vast trawling ban", The Seattle Times (2/11/05)).

People have been trying to get rid of draggers and dredgers for more than 600 years. In 1376 A.D., hook fishermen appealed to England's King Edward III, begging him to outlaw the wondyrchoun, the newly invented beam trawl that was laying waste the Thames River estuary. The draggers were killing everything, they complained, and feeding their bycatch of juvenile fish to hog farmers. (See the "Rolls of Parliament" Vol.2, p. 369. 50 Edward III, (1376/77 A.D.) (99H3).

Factory trawlers are eying two fisheries: the herring and mackerel fisheries of the northeastern US. Both management plans so far include size and horsepower restrictions making it hard for these boats to come, but both plans allow for these ships to take fish over the side. Once the ship is there taking fish over the side the owners will ask to fish directly. In fact, the owners of one vessel, the Atlantic Star, has already written a letter saying they will take the mother-ship allocation, but it really can't meet it's economic needs with that alone and, by necessity, needs to fish as well. Even as a mother-ship, such vessels will encourage fishing 24 hours/day by boats delivering to them, since now they don't have to travel to port and can stay out to sea for long periods. This increase in fishing pressure will escalate the impact on the stocks, increase chances of marine mammal interaction and by-catch, and increased by-catch and discards of other protected species (Niaz Dorry (niazd@dialb.greenpeace.org) 7/21/99).

[C13] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ US Fishery Management Councils ~

A national fish conservation coalition is charging that the Commerce Department's latest appointments to regional fishery management councils will harm fish more then help them by "continuing a pattern of mandating conflict of interest" which is "a key factor contributing to the drastic depletion of many US fish populations." Criticizing the new appointments announced 6/27/03, Lee Crockett, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network (Network), points out that the newest appointees were 47.8% commercial fishermen, 35.2% recreational fishermen, and 16.9% others. Crockett, a marine biologist, cites a previous study showing the continuing pattern of appointing council members who have a direct interest in short-term profit, not long-term protection of the fish populations. "The councils were designed to facilitate catching fish, unfortunately that very design makes them poorly suited for fish conservation," Crockett said. Under the current system, state governors nominate individuals to be considered for membership on the regional councils, and the Secretary of Commerce selects members from the governors' suggestions. The study Crockett cites ~ written by Thomas Okey and published in the May 2003, edition of Marine Policy ~ found that between 1990 and 2001, commercial and recreational fishermen accounted for 82% of all the people appointed to regional fishery councils. The Okey study analyzed the makeup of the councils nationally over a 12-year period, and found a parallel between industry dominance of the council process and bad management decisions. According to the report's abstract, "Contemporary economic sensibilities within this "industry captured" regulatory process generate perverse incentives for management decisions that conflict with, and can undermine, national sustainability goals and standards, even when those standards are logically sound and agreed to by consensus." Report author Thomas Okey: "The skewed composition of the Fishery Management Councils appears to be a central reason for the mismanagement of our fisheries. Congress intentionally created a council system in which industry would dominate because they recognized the critical role of fishermen in making and complying with management decisions. Unfortunately, the institutionalized capture of resource decision-making by fishing industries promotes a pathological focus on short-term economic gains that consistently jeopardizes the long-term health of fish stocks and marine ecosystems." (Continued below)

The Network has documented that this continued pattern of special interest appointments has cost US taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in buyouts and relief programs as the industry dominated councils have repeatedly placed exploitation of the resource over conservation. For more information on the cost of mismanagement, visit http://www.conservefish.org/site/mediacenter/cost.pdf The Network cited the collapse of groundfish populations in New England and rockfish populations in the Pacific as "two of the most well known examples of what happens when a council refuses to make the hard decisions necessary to conserve fish populations for future generations." (Marine Fish Conservation Network, "Coalition Charges: Fish Management Appointments Reflect Continued Bias", Marine Fish Conservation Network News Release of 6/27/03).

Over a third of the US fish stocks currently are over-fished (not counting those stocks for which the government has inadequate information to judge their status) (03E1). Eight regional fishery management councils play the major role in developing management plans and supporting regulations for each of the coastal fisheries in need of conservation. (The council system was created in 1976 as part of the original Magnusen-Stevens Act.) The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) within the US Department of Commerce has oversight authority over these regional councils, but NMFS in practice seldom rejects the councils' decisions (Continued below).

A study initiated and supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts looked in detail at the mandates, constitution, rules and procedures of the 8 regional fishery management councils to determine whether the councils can effectively manage US fisheries. The study concluded that the 8 councils are unlikely to solve the current problems facing US fisheries because (03E1):

When Congress invented the fishery management councils as part of the NMFS there were (03E1):

No nation other than the US gives its fishing industry as much authority to make large-scale decisions about fishery conservation and management as the 8 regional fishery management councils in the US enjoy. In most countries, fishermen play important but advisory roles.

Australia's Fisheries Management and Administration Act of 1991 created a council system similar to that in the US, with council members predominantly composed of fishing industry members. The results have been similar to those in the US: In 1992 the Australian government classified 25% of known fishery stocks as over-fished. In 2003 it reported that 50% of the known stocks are over-fished (03E1). (Continued below.)

The Magnusen-Stevens Act requires that the optimum yield of a fishery cannot exceed the "maximum sustainable yield" (MSY) of the fishery. Theories developed by fishery science hold that a fish stock will produce its MSY when the fish population is between 40-60% of its pre-fishing levels (63 Federal Register 24212 (1998)).
The US lacks even basic information about a number of important fishery stocks. There are 932 fish stocks under federal management in the US EEZ, but the NMFS has information sufficient to evaluate the full status of about 25% of them, slightly more than 230. OF the nearly 700 stocks of "unknown" status, 99 are "major stocks" (defined as stocks with annual landings of more than 200,000 pounds). 9 of the 30 most valuable domestic fisheries are of "unknown" status. Thus the NMFS does not know whether the two most valuable fisheries managed by the councils ~ pollock and brown shrimp ~ are over-fished or not (03N1).
Of the 237 known stocks for which there is sufficient information to evaluate current stock levels, NMFS classifies 36% (86 stocks) as "over-fished". Of the 274 stocks for which it can be determined whether over-fishing is occurring, 25% (66 stocks) are experiencing over-fishing. 48 stocks (about 20% of known stocks) are both over-fished and experiencing over-fishing. This suggests that effective rebuilding plans either have not been implemented or have not taken effect. 27% of major US fishery stocks are over-fished, while 24% are subject to over-fishing (03N1). (Continued below)

According to the UNFAO, of the worldwide fish stocks for which information is available, 28% are over-fished, compared with 37% of all major and minor fisheries managed by regional councils in the US (02F1). What is odd about this is that fishery scientists in the US, particularly those in the NMFS enjoy a reputation as some of the most sophisticated and accomplished fisheries science experts in the world. Given the ability of these scientists, one would expect that the US fisheries management record would be better, certainly not worse, than the worldwide record.
More than 60% of the US fishery stocks that are currently under fishery management council rebuilding plans are still experiencing over-fishing. This suggests that the US fishery management councils have not yet adequately addressed the problem of too much fishing that led to the fisheries becoming over-fished in the first place. This suggests that the Councils' rebuilding plans are unlikely to be successful (02F1).

Since 1985, the percentage of US fishery council members who directly work in, or represent, the fishing industry has ranged as high as 88%, never dropping below 78%. (Continued below.)

The most frequently made criticisms of the 8 US fishery management councils under the NMFS are that (03E1):

A common link between over-fishing and over-grazing (03E1):

Like the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) to deal with fishery management, the Taylor Grazing Act (TGA) was also enacted to bring previously unregulated areas under federal management and to promote conservation. Like fisheries in 1976, rangelands in 1935 were also in very poor condition. By 1935 only 16% of federal rangelands were in "excellent" or "good" condition while nearly 40% were in "poor" condition. The TGA, like the MSA, contained vague conservation standards, e.g. the TGA required the Dept. of the Interior to "stop injury to public grazing lands by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration." "Grazing Advisory Boards" were created in 1939, quite comparable to Fishery Management Councils. These grazing boards included only stockmen, just as Fishery Management Councils contained almost entirely fishermen. The effects of the Grazing Advisory Boards were similar to those of the Fishery Management Councils, e.g. in 1936 only 16% of federal grazing lands were in "excellent" or "good" condition. In 1975 the figure was 17%. Conditions improved when, in 1976, the Grazing Advisory Boards were subject to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. By 1984 more than 36% of federal grazing lands were in "excellent" or "good" condition. In 1994 "Resource Advisory Councils" replaced Grazing Advisory Boards with 2/3 of the Council members required to be representation from environmental, archeological, cultural, state and local government, public-at-large and academic interests. This change in makeup never really happened. The result was that the 36% of federal grazing lands in "excellent" or "good" condition in 1984 became 34% in 2001 (03E1).

[C14] ~ Fishery Politics/ Conflicts ~ Saltwater Recreational Fishing ~

5% of the US marine catch is recreational ~ double the previous estimate. Sport fishing accounted for 23% of all catches of the most over-fished species. In the Gulf of Mexico in 2002 recreational fishers accounted for 64% of all catches of what the NMFS calls "populations of concern". Off the Pacific Coast, 59% of the landings of over-fished species were attributed to recreational fishers (04W1).

An estimated 10 million Americans engage in saltwater fishing. The saltwater recreational fishing industry grew 20% in the past 10-20 years and is valued in the tens of billions of dollars (04W1).

[C15] ~ Fishery Law Enforcement ~

Attacks and threats against government observers monitoring commercial fishing fleets increased by almost 50% above those reported in 2006, according to agency figures released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These latest numbers continue a sharp rise in reported incidents in recent years - nearly doubling in2005 and tripling from the 2004 level. Approximately 700 professional observers accompany commercial fishing vessels in 42 different fisheries, logging an estimated 60,000 days at sea. Observers work either directly or indirectly under contract with the National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (07P1).

According to the 2006 figures obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act - (07P1)

"These numbers indicate that more than one in ten observers is reporting a sexual assault or other intimidation on the high seas," stated PEER (07P1).

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