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Lawmakers Call For Counsumer Boycott of Drift Net Caught Tuna

October 26, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two lawmakers called Wednesday for a nationwide consumer boycott of canned tuna imported from countries whose fishing fleets use drift nets.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, American Samoa’s non-voting delegate to Congress, also urged consumers not to purchase tuna from nations whose canneries process fish supplied by the drift-net fleets.

DeFazio said it was his understanding that virtually all of the canned tuna imported from Southeast Asia contained fish caught by the drift-net fleets of Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, and that Thailand was the ″principal processor″ of such fish.

All imported tuna is required to bear the country of origin on its label, although DeFazio said such labeling was often in fine print.

″The United States is the only major market for canned tuna, importing almost $250 million of drift-net-caught tuna just last year,″ DeFazio said. ″I think American consumers would be willing to pay a few cents more for a can of tuna in order to force these nations to stop using drift nets.

″I have yet to meet an American family that thinks it is a good idea to strangle dolphins and other animals in drift nets.″

DeFazio said about 30 percent of the canned tuna sold in the United States is imported.

″The American market has enormous economic clout and can force a change in these fishing technologies,″ said Gerry Leape, Greenpeace’s legislative director for ocean ecology issues.

A Greenpeace spokeswoman, however, said later in the day the environmental group was not actually calling for a boycott.

″We are not opposed to a boycott, but would prefer that things be done legislatively,″ said Blair Palese. ″Boycotts are not the answer, there are better ways to do things. We tell people if they want to avoid buying tuna, that’s fine. But it is hard for consumers to understand what tuna to buy or not to buy.″

Last week, DeFazio introduced legislation that could lead to a U.S. ban on fish imports from nations known to use drift nets or to process drift-net catches.

″We need to hit them in their pocketbooks,″ DeFazio told a news conference, adding that drift-net fleets were ″effectively strip-mining″ the Pacific Ocean of both tuna and salmon.

DeFazio said the small-mesh, monofilament nets also kill thousands of marine mammals, sea birds and other marine animals annually.

″Every night these nations drop 30,000 miles of net - a virtual wall of death that could encircle the entire globe,″ DeFazio said. ″If this continues for a few more years, we will have a beautiful, shimmering biological desert off the West Coast.″

The Bush administration has agreed to support a temporary moratorium on drift-net fishing on the South Pacific, but has been reluctant to seek a similar ban in either the North Pacific or internationally.

The administration earlier this summer reached separate enforcement and monitoring agreements with Taiwan, Korea and Japan that State Department officials hope will supply adequate scientific data for the administration to decide whether to seek an international ban.

DeFazio said further studies were not needed and ″we do not have time for lengthy negotiations.″

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