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Japanese Lobbying Congress Against Drift-Net Ban

October 3, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Japanese Fisheries Association is launching a lobbying campaign aimed at countering contentions by U.S. government scientists that drift nets are ″curtains of death″ to sealife.

Association spokesman Alan Macnow accused the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service on Wednesday of exaggerating the ecological harm to the ocean with distorted ″anti-drift net propaganda.″

″There are a lot of environmental extremists who have obtained positions in government and they currently are making policies to the detriment of the government and the country as a whole,″ Macnow told a National Press Club audience.

″All in all, the data shows this method of fishing is no worse than any other commercial method of fishing,″ he said. ″It is not particularly wasteful.″

Japan, Taiwan and South Korean vessels use drift nets to fish primarily for squid in the north Pacific Ocean. The nets stretch as long as 30 miles and critics say they indiscriminately kill all fish, marine mammals and sea birds in their path.

Specifically, Macnow said the Japanese group is fighting a bill passed by the Senate and awaiting House action that would impose trade sanctions on countries that continue to fish with drift nets.

″The media has conditioned the public to love and almost deify every marine mammal,″ Macnow said. ″They are cute. They can be trained to do amazing things. But there are an awful lot of them and they reproduce fairly quickly.″

The National Marine Fisheries Service reported that in 1990, just 10 percent of Japan’s drift-net fleet killed 1,758 whales and dolphins, 253,288 tuna, 81,956 blue sharks, 30,464 sea birds and more than 3 million other non- target fish.

″Given the data collected by NMFS scientists, we have formulated our opinion that drift net technology is extremely wasteful and should be stopped,″ agency spokesman Roddy Moscoso said Wednesday.

″Statements by Japan that purport that the NMFS employees are managed by conservation extremists is nothing short of ludicrous. This is an agency that employs credible scientists of international stature,″ he said in an interview.

Macnow acknowledged that changes must be made in the nets to cut down on the average of 10,000 marine mammals killed annually by Japanese drift- netters, especially the large numbers of dolphins.

But he said Japan should be allowed to adopt a conservation and management program, as allowed for under a pending United Nations drift-net moratorium, instead of facing U.S. officials ″standing with a club and threatening,″ Macnow said.

The U.N. moratorium is set to go into effect on June 30, 1992. Fearing the United Nations lacks the necessary enforcement tools, Congress is pursuing its own legislation banning the use of drift nets internationally.

Alan Reichman, an ocean ecology specialist for the environmental group Greenpeace in Seattle, said it was clear that Japan intends to ″try to wiggle out of the U.N. moratorium.

″The conservation language in the moratorium is a loophole big enough to drive a drift net vessel through,″ he said. ″Our position is that the technology on these huge drift nets is inherently flawed and there is no way to fix the nets to make them work.″

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