Subject: Environment: Super Trawler thr (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Thu, 15 Jan 1998 10:36:44 -0500 (EST)


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 15 Jan 98 12:48:00 GMT 
Subject: Environment: Super Trawler thr

Environment: Super Trawler threatens marine food

  WASHINGTON, (Jan. 13) IPS - One of the world's largest fishing
vessels, using nets wide enough to snare several jumbo jetliners,
is threatening to destroy marine ecosystems of the Pacific, say
worried environmentalists.
   International concern about the negative effects of huge factory
trawlers on the marine environment is growing as the 340- feet-long
trawler, American Monarch, prepares to leave to fish for pollack
roe on the Russian side of the North Pacific Ocean.
   "Fish don't stand a chance against ships like the American
Monarch," says Niaz Dorry, a campaigner with the international
environmental group Greenpeace. "Not only is it likely to
jeopardize Russian stocks, but U.S. stocks and the North Pacific
ecosystem as a whole are put at greater risk."
   The $65 million American Monarch can net and process about one
million pounds of fish per day. Its owner, the Seattle-based
American Seafoods, is a subsidiary of Resources Group International
(RGI), a Norwegian firm that plans to build 24 additional
   American Seafoods maintains that these trawlers are not a threat
to fish populations.
   "Once again Greenpeace is making exaggerated and even false claims
in a effort to alarm the public and enlist support for their
cause," said Bernt O. Bodal, president of American Seafoods. "The
reality is that a certain number of fish are going to be harvested
-- the number and size of the boats competing for those fish are
irrelevant to the health of the stocks."
   But not just Greenpeace says that fish populations and marine
ecosystems worldwide are threatened in large part from factory
trawlers, like the American Monarch. The United Nations Food and
Agriculture Organization has estimated that nearly 70 percent of
the world's commercial fish species are fully exploited,
overfished, or otherwise in urgent need of management.
   In 1950, no marine fish stocks were known to be overfished.
Once abundant species like cod, shark, and tuna are in sharp
decline, with blue fin tuna now listed as an endangered species.
   "It's pretty simple," says Greenpeace's Dorry, "Fish don't stand
a chance against ships like the American Monarch. And, given the
global reach of factory trawlers, no fish are safe."
   Fishing communities worldwide are now feeling the full impact of
the factory trawlers, with millions of people losing their
livelihoods, according to a new book "The Plundered Seas" published
by the Sierra Club.
   "Hundreds of millions of people build their lives and cultures
around the capture and preparation of fish, which provide as much
animal nutrition as all of the world's chickens and cows combined.
But their relationship is changing with explosive speed," writes
geneticist David Suzuki in the book's foreword.
   Families that rely on fishing for their sustenance are now facing
poverty and food insecurity as bounty from the oceans is depleted
the world over, says the book. About one billion people -- a fifth
of the global population -- rely on fish as their primary source
of protein.
   Several North Pacific pollack stocks already are showing signs of
distress. "A glut of factory trawlers in the U.S. pollack fishery
has created short, intense seasons with vast amounts of waste and
dangerously high quotas," says Dorry.
   The Central Bering Sea has been closed to fishing since 1992, due
to overfishing by factory trawlers. Yet, many scientists believe
the United States and Russian fisheries target the same basic stock
of pollack.
   The decline of many marine mammals and seabird species in Alaska,
most notably the endangered Steller sea lion -- that feeds on
pollack, has paralleled the rise of factory trawling, say
environmentalists. Fur seals, horned puffins, murres, cormorants,
and other seabirds that depend on pollack are also in sharp
   Having been banned from fishing in Chilean and Peruvian water in
1997amid concerns over its potential impacts on that South
American country's fisheries, the American Monarch has spent most
of last year docked in Seattle. Because it was built in Norway, the
United States will not allow the vessel to participate in the two
billion dollar a year fishing industry in U.S. territorial waters
off of Alaska.
   Since Dalmore Prokuct, a Russian company, agreed to a joint venture
project with the company to fish for pollack in the North Pacific,
the Monarch has been preparing to depart from Seattle to the Bering
sea. The area is a popular target for factory trawlers because the
Russians legally allow 40 percent of their pollack to be caught
each year, while, for example, the United States allows 18 percent.
   As the world's fisheries collapse, the temptation for fishing
companies to make a quick buck -- by ignoring the few effective
conservation rules that do exist -- has also increased, say
   "There are international agreements and many laws," says Max
Aguero, director of the Chile-based research organization the
Inter-American Center for Sustainable Ecosystems Development.
   Even though, Chile successfully banned the American Monarch from
its waters after a legal battle, Aguero says that industrial fleets
do not fully respect the regulations.
   "Developing countries do not have the resources to enforce them,
such as through good fleets to monitor the waters within their own
boundaries. We need more means to police the oceans if we want to
implement the regulations, and as an international community, we
must find ways to self-regulate."
   As a starting point, Greenpeace is calling for a 50 percent
reduction in fishing capacity of the global, large-scale fishing
fleet, and an outright ban on factory trawlers in U.S. waters.