Proposed Anti-Drift-Net Bill Would Allow Ban on Fish Imports
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Illegal drift-net fishing could prompt a ban on fish products from offender countries under a bill introduced Tuesday in Congress, and one sponsor suggested tougher penalties may be necessary.
″We have to start slapping sanctions on fish products and if that doesn’t work, I believe we then have to look toward TVs, VCRs and camcorders,″ Rep. Jolene Unsoeld, D-Wash., said in a House floor speech.
″These drift-net-pirate countries have to understand that if they insist on stealing our fish, we are going to get tough,″ Unsoeld said as she introduced the bill with Reps. Gerry Studds, D-Mass., chairman of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries merchant marine subcommittee, and Don Young, R- Alaska, the panel’s ranking Republican.
The measure would allow the president to bar imports of fish products from offender countries, even if the fish were not caught in drift nets.
The proposed legislation would authorize the president to impose such sanctions on any country illegally using drift nets.
But the bill specifically targets Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, whose squid-fishing fleets are the biggest users of the nets that are as much as 50 miles long. The United States has drift-net agreements with all three countries limiting the use of the nets to certain areas.
Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., introduced a similar measure in the Senate last week. His proposal would mandate sanctions on drift-netting countries that fail to halt the practice by the end of 1992, rather than making the penalties an option.
Government studies indicate as many as 50,000 dolphins and hundreds of thousands of birds were killed in 1989 by drift-net fishermen in the North Pacific, Young said.
″The fact that large-scale drift nets kill ocean resources indiscriminately and wastefully is well documented,″ he said.
Unsoeld cited a more recent incident.
″Last week we got an ugly reminder of what happens when we don’t get tough with Japan and other countries who illegally use 30-mile-long drift nets to spread a curtain of death entrapping hundreds of thousands of our fish, marine mammals and sea birds,″ she said.
″Coast Guard planes got a bird’s-eye view of up to four drift-net vessels roaming 360 miles outside legal fishing zones,″ Unsoeld said, referring to sightings reported south of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.
″The sickening picture they saw was of drift nets full of salmon, of boats ignoring signals to stop and of criminals cutting their nets free to make a quick getaway,″ she said.
The president has the power to impose punitive import tariffs in cases where the Commerce Department believes the target country is engaged in unfair trading practices.
Unsoeld and Packwood want that power expanded to allow the levying of such tariffs in direct retaliation for drift-netting.