Fisheries and Marine Mammals: Most Recent Developments -- 10/03/97
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crs Congressional Research Service
Environment and Natural Resources Policy Division

Fisheries and Marine Mammals: Most Recent Developments
10/03/97

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     New info and changes since 9/26/97 are bracketed {...}.
     New info and changes since 10/01/97 are double bracketed {{...}}

Marine Fisheries

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     {Coral Reef Conference.  On Oct. 9-11, 1997, the World Bank in cooperation with the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management, the International Coral Reef Initiative, the Smithsonian Institution, the World Conservation Union, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will hold a conference on coral reefs at the World Bank Main Complex in Washington, DC.} [http://www-esd.worldbank.org/coralreef97/]

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     {{Social Aspects of Fishing.  On Oct. 3-4, 1997, Europeche, the Association of National Organizations of Fisheries Companies in the European Union, was scheduled to meet in Cadiz, Spain, to discuss the social aspects of commercial fisheries, including working hours, environmental issues, relations with non-EU countries in fisheries, and professional consultation.}} [Agence Europe via Reuters]

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     {{Health Insurance for Fishermen.  On Oct. 2, 1997, the Associated Press reported that Caritas Christi, a health care organization affiliated with the Archdiocese of Boston, was awarded a $1.9 million federal grant to finance a program to assist MA and RI commercial fishermen in obtaining health insurance.  The grant funds were provided as part of a federal effort to assist New England fisheries.  Federal funds will supplement state funding for this program.}} [Assoc Press]

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     {{Shrimp Virus Study.  In early October 1997, the Coastal Fisheries Division of the TX Parks and Wildlife Dept. was scheduled to begin testing for diseased shrimp in TX bays in an effort to determine if introduced exotic diseases are adversely affecting native shrimp.}} [Assoc Press]

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     {{Geoduck Discovery.  In early October 1997, the Associated Press reported the discovery of an estimated 12 million pound bed of geoducks off Sitka, AK.  The exploration leading to this discovery was funded by federal dollars distributed to aid southeast AK communities that had been dependent upon the timber industry.}} [Assoc Press]

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     {{Fishermen's Oil Spill Response Team.  On Sept. 29, 1997, the first of 16 commercial fishing vessels were deployed by CA's Fishermen's Oil Spill Response Team (F.O.R.T.) to assist in the containment and cleanup of oil spilled at Santa Barbara platform Irene.  Vessels began returning from the completed activity on Oct. 2, 1997.}} [CA Seafood Council press release via Dow Jones News]

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     {Red Tide Closure.  On Sept. 29, 1997, the TX Dept. of Health banned clam, oyster, and mussel harvesting along the lower TX coast (from Port Aransas south to South Padre Island, excluding Galveston Bay) in response to red tide conditions.  About 2.5 million fish were reported to have been killed near San Jose Island by these conditions in late September 1997.} [Assoc Press]

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     {Surimi Processing Plant Collapse.  On Sept. 28, 1997, the cold storage portion of the Crystal Ocean Seafood Inc. plant in Astoria, OR, collapsed into the Columbia River.  The cold storage area, on pilings over the river, was reportedly packed full with frozen fish product, and may have overloaded the structure.} [Assoc Press]

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     Mexican Maritime Boundary Hearing.  On Sept. 25, 1997, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing on the Maritime Boundary Treaty with Mexico. [personal communication]

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     {{Korean Vessel Penalized.  In late September 1997, the Korean fishing vessel, Shin Chang 502, was fined $100,000 and its catch worth more than $18,000 was forfeited for fishing five times illegally within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone near Palmyra and Jarvis Islands earlier in 1997.}} [Assoc Press]

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     {Lobster-Herring Conflict?  In late September 1997, ME lobstermen complained that herring trawlers were entering state inshore waters illegally to net herring and had damaged thousands of dollars worth of lobster gear in the process.  The ME Marine Patrol planned to coordinate with the U.S. Coast Guard to increase surveillance.} [Assoc Press]

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     {South Pacific Tuna.  In late September 1997, the South Pacific's Forum Fisheries Agency held discussions with the U.S. Tuna Foundation, and requested that the U.S. tuna fleet increase the proportion of Pacific Islander crewmembers on U.S. vessels from its current 15% to 50% over a five year period.  Discussions also included use of shore facilities by the U.S. tuna fleet and investment in island tuna processing.} [Assoc Press]

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     AK CDQ Recommendations.  In late September 1997, the State of Alaska announced recommendations to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce on revising the Community Development Quota (CDQ) program for Bering Sea villages.  The Governor's Office announced recommendations to expand the program to include CDQs for Pacific cod, Atka mackerel, yellowfin sole, king crab, and other species.  Communities would receive 7.5% of the total allocation of flatfish species.  For crab, the CDQ allocation would begin at 3.5% of the total harvest in 1998, rising to 7.5% within two years. [Assoc Press]

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     WTO Shrimp Dispute.  On Sept. 24, 1997, the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute panel on U.S. shrimp import sanctions announced that it would not issue its ruling until late March 1998 (rather than October 1997) to allow additional time to seek scientific guidance and information needed to decide the case. [Dow Jones News]

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     Petroleum Exploration and Corals.  On Sept. 23-24, 1997, Greenpeace argued at a British High Court hearing that the potential damage to rare cold water coral (Lophelia pertusa) communities west of the Shetland Islands and in the Rockall Trough is sufficient to suspend oil exploration licenses for these areas and is contrary to the European Habitats Directive.  If successful in this hearing, a full judicial review of the case will convene in November 1997. [Reuters]

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     Summer Flounder Lawsuit.  On Sept. 22, 1997, Federal Judge Robert Doumar held a 4-hour hearing and declined to rule, without a trial, on a complaint by NC commercial fishermen that NMFS's summer flounder quotas are unfair and did not account for the economic impact on fishing communities.  {On Sept. 29, 1997, Judge Doumar began a trial on this lawsuit; Judge Doumar ordered the U.S. Dept. of Commerce to conduct a study of the economic impact of flounder quotas on small businesses.} [Assoc Press]

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     Coral Reefs and Carbon Dioxide.  On Sept. 22, 1997, Japan's New Energy and Industrial Development Organization released the results of a 7-year study of coral reefs, concluding that, contrary to conventional wisdom, coral reefs release more carbon dioxide than they absorb. [Dow Jones News]

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     NPFMC Meetings.  On Sept. 22, 1997, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) began meetings in Seattle, WA, to consider whether to discuss possible changes in the allocation sharing of Bering Sea pollock between onshore (35%) and offshore (65%) processors.  {On Sept. 28, 1997, the NPFMC voted to review how Bering Sea pollock is allocated; the Council's study of pollock allocation is expected to be completed by June 1998.  In addition, the NPFMC adopted recommended harvest guidelines for southcentral and southeast AK halibut charter fleets, limiting their harvest to not more than 125% of that taken in 1995.} [Assoc Press]

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     Federal Weakfish Regulations.  On Sept. 19, 1997, NMFS announced the publication of regulations to limit the commercial harvest of weakfish in federal offshore waters from Maine to Florida.  These regulations complement existing regulations in state waters developed under the leadership of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.  Regulations impose a minimum size limit, net mesh and other gear restrictions, and special closed areas, and restrict commercial landings to only certain states from MA through NC. [NMFS press release]

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     Fisheries Trade Conference.  On Sept. 17-19, delegates from 60 nations met at Toja, Spain, for a ministerial conference on promoting seafood trade through homogenous regulation. [Agence Europe via Reuters]

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     NAFO Meeting.  In mid-September 1997, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) met in St. Johns, Newfoundland, deciding by consensus that the moratoria on harvesting main fish stocks would be continued, that the pilot program for observers and satellite tracking of vessels would be continued for another year, and that it would adopt a scheme to address the problem of infringement on NAFO fish stocks by non-contracting party vessels. [Agence Europe via Reuters]

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     North Pacific Fishery Observers Unionized.  In mid-September 1997, final ballots were tallied by the National Labor Relations Board from 5 companies providing observers aboard commercial groundfish vessels in the North Pacific.  The majority (196 to 26) voted for unionization, and observers will be represented by the Alaska Fishermen's Union, if the balloting is not contested. [Assoc Press]

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     New England Fisheries.  On Sept. 13, 1997, officers of the US. Coast Guard cutter Adak allegedly sighted a New Bedford, MA, scalloper fishing in a closed area 53 miles southeast of Nantucket.  The vessel was towed to New Bedford, where its catch of scallops and monkfish was seized by NMFS and sold, with the proceeds held in escrow until the case is decided.  {On Sept. 28, 1997, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Tahoma boarded and seized the catch of a New Bedford fishing vessel, alleged to be fishing within a closed area about 114 miles east of Cape Cod.  The vessel's catch of scallops and monkfish will be sold, with the proceeds held in escrow until the case is decided.} [Assoc Press]

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     Passamaquoddy Trial.  On Sept. 12, 1997, trial began for 9 Passamaquoddy who face charges for fishing in coastal waters without ME state licenses.  The Passamaquoddy believe they retain ancestral rights to fish coastal waters without state licenses while the state claims the Tribe relinquished its saltwater fishing rights in a 1980 land claims settlement. [Assoc Press]

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     Shellfish Warnings.  On Sept. 12, 1997, British Columbia officials lifted their ban on the sale of raw or undercooked oysters, clams and mussels, which had been in effect since July 31.  A total of 113 cases of illness were reported during July and August.  On Sept. 15, 1997, WA Dept. of Health reopened selected oyster beds for recreational and commercial harvest; these beds had been closed since Aug. 28, due to the high incidence of human illness from Vibrio parahaemolyticus. [Assoc Press, WA Dept. of Health press release]

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     Illegal Mexican Longlining.  On Sept. 11, 1997, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Key Biscayne sighted 2 Mexican vessels with longline gear more than a mile inside the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), 30 miles offshore of Texas.  The Coast Guard entered the Mexican EEZ in hot pursuit, but broke off when the vessels entered Mexican territorial waters.  Later, a third Mexican vessel was encountered trying to retrieve longline gear inside the U.S. EEZ, but fled to the Mexican EEZ. [personal communication]

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     NMFS Oversight Hearings.  The House Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife, and Oceans held an oversight hearing to review NMFS management of the nation's fisheries on Sept. 11, 1997. [Congr. Record]

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     ICCAT Advisory Committee Regional Public Meetings.  Between Sept. 10 and Oct. 3, 1997, the Advisory Committee to the U.S. Section to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) will hold a series of 6 regional public meetings along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to discuss relevant international and domestic issues and receive public comment. [Federal Register]

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