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Greenpeace Demonstrators Chain Themselves to Factory Trawlers

August 17, 1996

SEATTLE (AP) _ Greenpeace activists chained themselves to three docked fishing factory trawlers Friday, a day after the group blamed the huge ships for declines in some fish, bird and marine mammal populations.

The protest began in the morning and lasted into the evening, when police arrested 11 people. Some protesters in wet suits also chained themselves to oil booms surrounding the trawlers. Others used ropes to hoist themselves onto the sides of the ships and unfurl huge banners.

Greenpeace said some activists dived under water and wrapped chains around the propellers of at least three ships at piers owned by American Seafoods.

``They’re going to be stuck there for a while. We like to liken it to taking away the keys from a drunk driver,″ said protester Holly Callender.

Police divers were checking the ships for damage. Port police Capt. Tom Wilkenson said if damage is found, it would add malicious mischief to the trespassing charges already filed. All those arrested were released pending court dates.

``It’s a circus stunt,″ said Jan Jacobs, spokesman for American Seafoods. ``It’s just publicity. It’s designed to get headlines.″

Factory trawlers, massive ships that catch and process fish on board, measure up to 375 feet long. Industry officials say the nation’s 60-ship fleet handles some 2.5 billion pounds of fish a year from waters off Alaska.

The Greenpeace report said overfishing by the trawlers are responsible for declines in some fish, seabird and marine mammal populations in the North Pacific and Bering Sea. The environmental group has launched a campaign to phase out the vessels by 2001.

Some scientists and officials responsible for managing the lucrative fisheries off Alaska’s coast disputed many of the report’s findings. They say the ecosystem is healthy, the fisheries are well-managed, and population declines may be due to natural causes, not commercial fishing.

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