Members will examine the current state of global overfishing and explore ways the U.S. can make international fisheries management more effective. Following is a tentative witness list (not necessarily in order of appearance):
Witness Panel 1
Admiral Thomas CollinsCommandantU.S. Coast Guard
Click here for a PDF version of Admiral Collins' remarks.
Mr. John F. Turner
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: Your invitation to testify before this Committee today on the U.S. role in international fisheries could not be more timely. The state of the world’s oceans in general, and its fish stocks in particular, has recently received a great deal of attention. We are also looking forward to the report of the Commission on Ocean Policy later this year, which will undoubtedly contain a broad range of recommendations for action that will warrant serious consideration by the Administration and Congress. I welcome this attention, for it affords us an opportunity to raise awareness of the issues we have been confronting, of the progress we have made, and of the daunting challenges that still face us. My statement today begins with a brief overview of the general situation as we see it and then reviews a number of more specific issues, with a particular focus on those for which the Administration believes congressional action is necessary or desirable. In some cases, the testimony of other witnesses on this panel will elaborate on these specific issues. My statement closes with some thoughts on next steps that we must take. OVERVIEW In 2002, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported that global production from capture fisheries and aquaculture is currently the highest on record. Worldwide, the tonnage of fish caught in the oceans and inland areas has remained relatively stable in recent years, while the tonnage of fish produced by aquaculture has continued to increase markedly. International trade in fish products has also risen tremendously. These trends mask a number of very serious problems, however. Many of the world’s primary fishery resources are under stress. A number of key fish stocks have collapsed from overfishing and environmental degradation (such as cod in the Northwest Atlantic), while others have become depleted (such as Atlantic bluefin tuna). While stocks in the Pacific Ocean are generally thought to be in somewhat better shape, increasing fishing effort on a number of those stocks gives us reason to be concerned. In 2002, FAO estimated that, among the major marine fish stocks or groups of stocks for which information is available, about 47 percent are fully exploited, while another 18 percent are overexploited. An additional 10 percent of such stocks have been depleted or are recovering from depletion. In short, there are relatively few major fisheries that can absorb additional fishing effort. Meanwhile, we see a growing demand for fisheries products and many vessels looking for new places to fish. Many factors have contributed to this situation. Most international management of fisheries relies upon “open access” approaches that can create incentives toward overfishing. Moreover, improvements in fishing technology, coupled with substantial government subsidies to fishers, have greatly increased harvesting capacity worldwide. To make matters worse, environmental degradation has spoiled some fish habitat. The ability of vessels to operate outside governmental controls, including by adopting “flags of convenience,” has rendered fisheries enforcement less than effective in many circumstances. The use of certain kinds of fishing gear and fishing techniques has also led to serious concerns about the “bycatch” of other species (including some endangered species) and harm to the marine environment. Fortunately for the fish, and for the fishers whose livelihoods depend on them, we have worked to create a network of agreements designed to address these critical problems. The United States can take great pride in our leadership in this field, as we often played the role of drafters and brokers for these international agreements. Congress has also provided leadership in this field, including through Senate advice and consent to the ratification of international fisheries treaties and enactment of relevant legislation. Building on the general international law framework set forth in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the past decade has witnessed a veritable explosion of new agreements and standards for the conservation and management of fisheries worldwide. Some of the important instruments are: · The 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement · The 1993 FAO Compliance Agreement · The 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries · Four FAO International Plans of Action on specific matters · The 1996 Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention · The 1999 Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program · The 2000 Central and Western Pacific Tuna Convention (not yet in force) Our challenge now is to ensure effective implementation of the full range of these instruments. Working with Congress, U.S. constituent groups and our partners in the international community, we hope to realize the goal of sustainable fisheries worldwide. GLOBAL ISSUES Fisheries around the world are extraordinarily diverse. The species sought, the gear and techniques employed and the markets served all vary widely. Still, a number of common problems plague many fisheries. Worldwide, we are experiencing significant overcapacity of fishing fleets – there are simply too many boats chasing too few fish. Excess fishing capacity creates pressure toward overfishing. Certain government subsidies to the fisheries sector exacerbate this problem of overcapacity, by allowing otherwise unprofitable vessels to remain engaged in fishing activity. The very nature of ocean fishing, particularly fishing on the high seas, makes it difficult to enforce fishing rules. With the downturn in many valuable fisheries, the rules have become stricter, while the incentive to evade the rules has grown. The need to combat “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing – also known as IUU fishing – has risen to the forefront of challenges facing the international community in this field. Many of the agreements I mentioned earlier seek to respond to these common, pressing problems. The UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the FAO Compliance Agreement, both of which are now in force, contain ground-breaking provisions on the responsibilities of flag States to control the fishing activities of their vessels. Two of the FAO International Plans of Action – on fishing capacity and IUU fishing – have provided new tools for addressing these concerns. The upcoming Trade Round also has a mandate to impose greater disciplines on subsidies that contribute to overfishing. Let me reiterate that these agreements might not exist, or would not be as strong, without U.S. leadership in this field. The United States was among the first to ratify the UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the FAO Compliance Agreement. Our concerted diplomatic campaign to urge other nations to ratify these treaties has succeeded in bringing them into force. We can also take credit for our many contributions to the FAO International Plans of Action and the other instruments now in place to pursue sustainable fisheries. REGIONAL ISSUES Regional Fishery Management Organizations Much of the specific management of international fisheries is accomplished through regional fisheries management organizations. The United States is a member of more than a dozen such commissions and related organizations. These organizations adopt measures to conserve and manage fisheries under their auspices, conduct related scientific research and provide venues for undertaking new policy initiatives in the field of marine conservation. Funding to support U.S. participation in these organizations comes from appropriations to the International Fisheries Commissions account. Specifically, this account covers the U.S. share of operating expenses of nine international fisheries commissions and organizations, one sea turtle convention, the International Whaling Commission, two international marine science organizations, and travel and other expenses for non-Federal U.S. Commissioners. In recent years, Congress has appropriated roughly $20 million for this account annually. For FY 03, the Bush Administration requested $19.78 million. Congress appropriated $17.1 million. In the Conference Statement accompanying the FY 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, no funding was allocated for the operating expenses of the Pacific Salmon Commission and five other commissions. The Administration has submitted a notice to Congress on reprogramming funds within the International Fisheries Commission. The reprogramming will allow for the smallest feasible amount of funding so the Pacific Salmon Commission may continue operations and full funding of the smaller commissions. The Great Lakes Fisheries Commission and the International Pacific Halibut Commission will both be taking reductions in order to have all fish commissions in this account operating this fiscal year. For FY 2004, the Bush Administration’s budget request for International Fisheries Commissions amounts to $20.04 million, which includes $75 thousand for the Antarctic Treaty. We hope that Congress will appropriate the full amount. International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). This commission manages tunas (and tuna-like species, such as swordfish) in the Atlantic Ocean. Key conservation issues facing ICCAT include maintenance of rebuilding programs for North Atlantic swordfish, pressing for greater compliance with ICCAT rules, cracking down further on “IUU” fishing of ICCAT species, reviewing ICCAT’s practice of managing eastern and western bluefin tuna as separate stocks, and pressing for measures to conserve sea turtles and sharks incidentally captured in these fisheries. Recent attention has been focused on the EU’s activities in ICCAT, and in fact a coalition of environmental groups and several state governors submitted a request to certify the EU under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1967 for diminishing the effectiveness of ICCAT. We are working closely with the Department of Commerce on this issue. Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). This Commission manages a wide variety of fisheries on the high seas of the northwest Atlantic Ocean, many of which remain seriously depleted. Some stocks, however, are rebounding after years of sharply restricted fishing, including yellowtail flounder. U.S. priorities in NAFO include seeking greater access for U.S. vessels to such recovering stocks and modifying the NAFO system for allocating quotas more generally. The United States has taken an active role in NAFO and held many positions of leadership in the organization; however, we are considering the proper balance between our level of participation in NAFO and the benefits we accrue there. The Department of Commerce witness will also address this issue in more detail. Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Negotiations to establish a Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission concluded in September 2000. Throughout the negotiating process, the United States was a leader in developing the key provisions of this Convention and in bringing other nations together to accept a strong and balanced text. The United States and 18 other States have signed the Convention that will create the WCPFC, but it has not yet entered into force. The area covered by this Convention encompasses the last major area of the world’s oceans not covered by a regional management regime for tunas and other highly migratory species. This region produces more than half the world’s annual tuna catch. The United States is actively participating in the WCPFC Preparatory Process. One key issue that we hope to see addressed under this new Convention is that of excess fishing capacity – too many vessels catching too many fish. While the stocks of tuna in the Western and Central Pacific are not currently considered to be over-fished, excess capacity complicates adoption and implementation of effective conservation and management measures and has significant implications for the economic viability of these fisheries in the longer term. This Convention, which enjoys strong support from the tuna industry and conservation organizations, will require Senate advice and consent to ratification. New legislation to implement the Convention will also be necessary before the United States could become a party to it. We look forward to working with the Committee on such legislation. Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The 24-member Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources governs the harvesting of marine resources in the Southern Ocean. Concern has grown over the illegal harvesting of Patagonian toothfish, a high-value, long-lived fish species marketed in the U.S. as Chilean sea bass. CCAMLR designed an innovative catch documentation system in 2000 and, at its last meeting in November, adopted changes to distinguish better between legal and illegal catches and is instituting a list of fishing vessels which have engaged in IUU fishing. CCAMLR also is moving towards an internet-based document and tracking system to reduce the possibilities for fraud. Other Commissions. The United States participates in a number of other international fisheries commissions as well. Two of them, the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, involve Canada as the only other member. Two others, the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization and the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, have missions to conserve salmon stocks in their respective regions, including by ensuring that such stocks are not fished on the high seas. Finally, we are a longtime member of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, which regulates tuna fishing in the Eastern Pacific and is involved with our efforts to protect dolphin stocks in that region, as discussed below. Bilateral Issues with Canada Relations with Canada over fishery issues are better than they have been in many years. The 1999 Pacific Salmon Agreement appears to have resolved long-standing problems and has allowed the Pacific Salmon Commission to function effectively once again. The agreements on Yukon River salmon, on the amendments to the 1981 Albacore Treaty and on managing the transboundary Pacific whiting stock, described below, are noteworthy achievements as well. The 1981 U.S.-Canada Albacore Treaty allows vessels of each country to fish for albacore, without limitation, in waters of the other country. In 2002, the United States and Canada agreed to amend the Treaty to provide for limits on such fishing. Such changes are necessary to limit a recently fast-growing Canadian fishery in U.S. waters and also to permit future management of the stock by both sides. President Bush transmitted the amendment to the Treaty to the Senate in January 2003 and we are hopeful that the Senate will act favorably on this matter in the near future. In addition, we need legislation to implement the Treaty, both in its existing form and as revised. Such legislation was introduced in the 107th Congress (H.R. 1989). The Senate passed this legislation in November 2002, but the House did not take action on the bill before final adjournment. The legislation was included in the Magnuson bill just transmitted to Congress, and we hope that Congress will pass the legislation in the very near future. Most recently, U.S. and Canadian delegations have reached consensus on the text of an agreement to manage and share the valuable transboundary stock of Pacific whiting, also known as Pacific hake. Disagreements over sharing arrangements have led to overfishing in the past, as the United States took 80 percent of the allowable harvest, while Canada took more than 30 percent. This agreement, once it enters into force, should remedy that problem effectively. We look forward to working with Congress in developing implementing legislation for this agreement. The United States and Canada reached agreement on a management regime for salmon fisheries on the Yukon River in Alaska and the Yukon Territory in March 2001. U.S. and Canadian officials concluded the agreement through an exchange of notes in December 2002. As this is an executive agreement, it did not require Senate advice and consent to ratification, nor was any additional legislation needed to implement to agreement. However, there is an on-going need for the authorization and appropriation of funds to implement the Agreement, including for the Restoration and Enhancement Fund established under the Agreement. Finally, I would note that we are exploring ways to gain greater access for U.S. vessels to ports in Atlantic Canada. We are also engaged in efforts to resolve a dispute over lobster fishing in waters around Machias Seal Island off the coast of Maine. South Pacific Tuna Access Agreement This Treaty, which allows U.S. vessels to fish for tuna in the waters of 16 Pacific Island States, entered into force in 1988 and was amended and extended in 1993 for a ten-year period, through June 14 of this year. In 2002, the United States and the Pacific Island Parties concluded negotiations to extend the operation of this Treaty for an additional ten-year period, through June 14, 2013. The amendments to the Treaty and its Annexes will, among other things, enable use of new technologies for enforcement, streamline the way amendments to the Annexes are agreed, and modify the waters that are open and closed under the Treaty. President Bush submitted the amendments to the Treaty to the Senate for advice and consent in February 2003. Minor amendments to Section 6 of the South Pacific Tuna Act of 1988, Public Law 100-330, will be necessary to take account of the Amendment to paragraph 2 of Article 3, “Access to the Treaty Area,” which permits U.S. longline vessels to fish on the high seas of the Treaty Area. The Treaty provides considerable economic benefit to all parties, with the value of landed tuna contributing between $250 and $400 million annually to the U.S. economy. Nearly all of this fish is landed in American Samoa and processed in two canneries located there, one of which is owned by U.S. interests. These canneries provide more than 80 percent of private sector employment in that territory. Bilateral Issues with Russia Relations with the Russian Federation over fisheries issues in the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea are contentious. The failure of Russia to ratify the 1990 Maritime Boundary Treaty continues to create uncertainty, while corruption and lack of government resources have led to serious overfishing in Russian waters. A large-scale overhaul by the Government of the Russian Federation of its bureaucratic structure for managing fisheries is at present complicating efforts to address these matters. We are nevertheless actively looking for new ways to cooperate with Russia to improve this situation, including through the development of two new agreements, one on cooperation in marine science and the other on fisheries enforcement. ECOSYSTEM ISSUES We see a growing consensus in the international community that fisheries cannot be managed effectively by dealing with fish stocks in clinical isolation from the ecosystems in which they live. To be effective, fisheries managers must take into account such things as the relationships between target fish stocks and associated or dependent species, the effects of fishing practices on the marine environment, and non-fishing factors that affect the health and biomass of fish stocks. The modern international norms of fisheries management certainly reflect the need for “ecosystem-based” fisheries management. The 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement, for example, calls upon States to minimize pollution, waste, discards, catch by lose or abandoned gear, catch of non-target species, both fish and non-fish species, … and impacts on associated or dependent species, in particular endangered species, through measures including … the development and use of selective, environmentally safe and cost-effective fishing gear and techniques. The United States, through the combined efforts and Congress and the Executive Branch, has made progress in addressing these issues at the international level, but the work has, in many ways, only just begun. I would like to touch briefly on two well-known issues related to “bycatch” of non-target species: (1) efforts reduce sea turtle mortality in fishing operations and (2) efforts to reduce dolphin mortality in the purse seine fishery of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Sea turtles. Section 609 of Public Law 101-162 prohibits the importation of shrimp and products of shrimp harvested in a manner that may adversely affect sea turtle species. By May 1 of each year, the Department certifies to Congress those nations meeting criteria set forth in the statute relating to the protection of sea turtles in the course of shrimp trawl fishing. In 2003, we certified 39 nations and one economy (Hong Kong) as meeting the requirements of Section 609. Haiti did not meet certification requirements for 2002 and Indonesia remained uncertified from the previous year. Earlier in 2003, we removed Honduras and Venezuela from the list of certified countries. The United States is a leading participant in two groundbreaking international agreements to protect sea turtles, one in the Americas and another in the Indian Ocean region. Although both regimes are just getting off the ground, they hold considerable promise for reversing the declines of these endangered species. The Department of State leads the U.S. delegation to meetings held pursuant to these agreements. Congress has supported these agreements through the appropriations process. We are also working with NOAA Fisheries and the international community in a variety of fora to address the specific problem of the bycatch of sea turtles in longline fisheries. In 2002, the Department participated in the Second International Fishers’ Forum, hosted by the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council in Hawaii. The Department also helped sponsor and participated in the International Technical Expert Workshop on Marine Turtle Bycatch in Longline Fisheries in February 2003 in Seattle. In February 2003, we secured a commitment of FAO to convene an international technical consultation among members of FAO on the bycatch of sea turtles in longline and other commercial fisheries. The Department views this as the next step in a global campaign to seek solutions to this serious problem. In advance of that meeting, however, we are considering ways to work within some regional fisheries management organizations, such as the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), to provide input from those organizations into that process. Tuna/dolphin. Following enactment of the 1997 International Dolphin Conservation Program Act, the United States and other countries whose vessels participate in the purse seine tuna fishery of the Eastern Pacific Ocean entered into negotiations to create an effective, binding agreement to protect dolphins from harm in this fishery. The resulting 1999 Agreement, which built on an earlier voluntary regime, has been a solid success, bringing observed dolphin mortalities down to extremely low levels through the use of proper incentives for vessel captains and a strong oversight program that includes mechanisms for transparency otherwise unknown in the field of international fisheries. Under the resulting 1999 Agreement and the earlier voluntary regime, dolphin mortalities have been reduced more than 98 percent from as recently as 1987. We are aware of concerns regarding the level of compliance with this Agreement by some fishing countries. While the level of reported infractions represents a small percentage of overall activity under the Agreement, the Departments of State and Commerce are working with the other participants in the International Dolphin Conservation Program to address these concerns and to ensure that compliance with the Agreement is at the highest possible level. It should be noted, however, that the other countries whose vessels operate in this fishery entered into the 1999 Agreement with the expectation that the United States would adopt a new definition of “dolphin-safe” tuna. However, the International Dolphin Conservation Program Act made such a change in definition contingent on the outcome of certain studies and a finding by the Secretary of Commerce, a matter that remains in litigation. SOME NEXT STEPS Mr. Chairman, the Bush Administration continues to provide strong international leadership in pushing for global action to achieve sustainable fisheries. But the United States cannot do this alone. Our success will depend in large measure on our ability to harness and direct the energies of the international community toward a number of critical goals. First, the international community must do more than pay lip service to applying a greater conservation ethic to the regulation of ocean fisheries. The commitments contained in recent fisheries agreements are the right commitments, but they cannot remain mere words on paper. Similarly, we must give effect to the commitments in this field made at the World Summit for Sustainable Development, particularly to rebuild depleted fish stocks on an urgent basis. The nations of the world must reduce fishing capacity in an effort to reduce pressure for overfishing. We must also devote more effort to the conduct of marine scientific research related to fisheries and must follow scientific advice consistently. Governments, both individually and through their participation in regional fisheries management organizations, must continue moving towards “ecosystem-based” fisheries management as well. In particular, we must do more to develop fishing gear and techniques that reduce bycatch further and produce fewer adverse effects on the marine environment. One critical need in this respect is to find ways to reduce the bycatch of endangered sea turtles in longline fisheries worldwide. Second, we must complete the task of creating new management regimes to oversee important international fisheries that have, until recently, been largely unregulated. One prime example is for the tuna fisheries in the Central and Western Pacific, in which the Bush Administration is exercising a leadership role, as I mentioned earlier. The United States actively helped fashion a new regime to manage fisheries in the Southeast Atlantic Ocean, even though we do not have vessels fishing in that region at this time, in order to make that regime as strong as possible. We are also nearing the completion of an effort to overhaul the treaty creating the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, which will allow that body to operate in conformity with modern norms of fishery conservation and management. We must use these new and improved regimes to press forward on an aggressive agenda to achieve sustainable fisheries in these respective regions. Third, we must expand the use of the new tools for enforcing fishing rules, many of which are showing promise. Fisheries enforcement officials from various governments are coordinating their activities in real-time as never before, including through an informal Network that the United States and Chile helped to launch. We are seeing improvements in the area of monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing vessels, including through the use of independent observers and satellite-based vessel monitoring systems. While IUU fishing remains a very serious problem, we have succeeded in raising the profile of this issue and in putting pressure on governments to curb this practice. The Bush Administration has just issued a National Plan of Action on IUU Fishing, which contains many useful recommendations. This Action Plan will build on steps being taken in a variety of regional fisheries management organizations, including documentation schemes to reduce trade in illegally harvested fish, as well as controls on the landing and transshipment of fish in port. The international community also appears to be reconsidering the notion of exclusive flag-State jurisdiction over fishing vessels on the high seas, as a growing number of agreements allow other States to take certain enforcement actions against such vessels. Finally, we must build help developing countries build their own capacity to manage fisheries in waters under their jurisdiction more effectively. Roughly 90 percent of fish caught in the oceans are taken from waters within the jurisdiction of coastal States, particularly developing coastal States. Because many valuable fish stocks migrate widely, it is manifestly in our own interest to help these developing countries better manage those stocks in their own waters, particularly to control rampant illegal fishing that too often takes place. We certainly have much work to do if we are to reestablish sustainable fisheries worldwide. There is no hiding the fact that the situation facing many fisheries remains bleak. In short, we must ensure that the impressive collection of international agreements we have negotiated in the past decade do not remain mere words on paper. We must continue our efforts to turn those words into concrete actions if the situation facing international fisheries is to improve. CONCLUSION Thank you very much for this opportunity to address the Committee. I would be pleased to try to answer any questions that you may have.
Dr. Rebecca Lent
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify on topics related to international fishery conservation and management. I am Rebecca Lent, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce. Within the Bush Administration, NOAA Fisheries and our federal partners at the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security, working in concert with state, tribal, and other Native American groups, have and are continuing to accomplish an impressive program of international living marine resource conservation and management. The United States has one of the most comprehensive systems of fisheries management. The commercial fishing industry in the United States is required to comply with extensive science-based regulations that are more robust than those found in industrial fishing countries world-wide. Moreover, the United States has led efforts to reduce overfishing and fishing industry capacity under many international agreements. The United States continues to be a world leader in compliance with these international fisheries agreements. Hopefully, other industrial fishing countries, such as members of the European Union, will recognize the benefits of sustainable fishing practices and improve compliance with these international agreements. I would like to emphasize, however, that many of the challenges we face in international fisheries management will require broad international cooperation if we are to be successful in our efforts to mitigate the decline and collapse of major fish stocks. These challenges include: (1) eliminating overfishing; (2) rebuilding overfished stocks; (3) managing the needs of highly migratory species; (4) managing fisheries sustainably; (5) recovering protected species; (6) conserving habitats; (7) improving the science that guides management; (8) working toward ecosystem-based management; and (9) addressing problems of bycatch and harvesting capacity. I will provide an overview of our efforts to address these issues in several international fora including (1) ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas), (2) CCAMLR (Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources), (3) IWC (International Whaling Commission), (4) NAFO (Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization), (5) FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), (6) WTO (World Trade Organization), (7) CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), (8) the growing focus of attention and concern regarding deep sea fishing on seamounts and mid-oceanic ridges, and (9) recent press accounts about the status of the world’s fish stocks and their management. ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) ICCAT coordinates the international management of tunas and tuna-like species. The organization currently has 35 members. Primary U.S. objectives over the last several years have included seeking measures to rebuild overfished stocks and improve adherence to ICCAT rules by members and non-members. The United States has also focused on measures to address bycatch issues. With regard to rebuilding, we have had a number of successes, including the adoption of rebuilding plans for western bluefin tuna (1998), North Atlantic swordfish (1999), and blue and white marlins (2000). The sacrifices made to rebuild North Atlantic swordfish began to show results last year with a significant increase in biomass, which subsequently led to increases in quota allocations. On the compliance front, ICCAT has adopted a variety of state-of-the-art measures. ICCAT can and has imposed penalties (e.g., quota reductions, trade sanctions) against members for infractions. The Commission has also adopted action plans that contemplate the use of trade sanctions against countries that diminish the effectiveness of ICCAT, with sanctions having been imposed in several instances. These measures have been successful in reducing illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing in the Convention area. Most recently in its fight against IUU fishing, ICCAT adopted a vessel list program that provides a basis to limit market access to only those products taken by authorized vessels. Regarding bycatch issues, ICCAT has adopted proposals to improve data collection and reporting on sharks and seabirds. A similar proposal for sea turtles will be under consideration at the 2003 ICCAT meeting. The ICCAT measure also encourages releasing sharks taken as bycatch, and minimizing shark waste and discards. A shark assessment is planned for 2004. Despite the strides made at ICCAT, particularly over the last decade, a number of difficult issues remain. Data collection and reporting continue to be a challenge for some parties, and a special meeting will be held in the fall 2003 to consider this matter. Moreover, the stock structure of Atlantic bluefin tuna, currently managed as two separate stocks, remains in question and ICCAT agreed to convene a meeting of scientists and managers in November 2003 to look into this issue. In addition, ensuring ICCAT rebuilding plans stay on course and new programs are developed for other overfished stocks (such as bigeye tuna) will be important in upcoming meetings. We intend to ensure that ICCAT continues to make needed progress in improving member compliance and non-member cooperation, including addressing IUU issues. With respect to compliance issues in ICCAT fisheries, the Secretary of Commerce recently (April 25, 2003) sent letters to the European Commission (EC). Secretary Evans noted the importance of the conservation of marine fisheries and expressed concern about actions and positions taken by the EC at ICCAT in 2002–particularly regarding EC support of an eastern bluefin tuna total allowable catch far in excess of scientifically recommended, sustainable levels. Secretary Evans stated that positions such as these have the potential to threaten the long-term future of shared resources and to lead to serious friction in U.S.- EC trade relations. As an example, the Secretary pointed to a petition filed and later withdrawn by a recreational fishing organization under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 that sought relief from allegedly unjustifiable acts, policies, and practices of the EC related to ICCAT. In his letter, the Secretary urged the EC to take prompt action to improve their compliance with existing ICCAT measures and to reconsider accepting science-based conservation measures in the future. In addition to this action, NOAA Fisheries has received a request to certify the EC pursuant to the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1967 for diminishing the effectiveness of ICCAT. The decision on certification has been left open for the time being while we monitor the activities of the EC and its Member States. In this regard, Assistant Administrator Hogarth recently sent a letter to the EC Director General for Fisheries explaining the request, noting its seriousness, and indicating that we intend to investigate it fully. He has also been in contact with the head of the EC delegation to ICCAT concerning this matter, and we continued our dialogue at the ICCAT intersessional meetings in Madeira in late May 2003. We have been stressing the importance of EC implementation of its ICCAT commitments and will continue to do so. CCAMLR (Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) Due to the scale of IUU fishing for toothfish in and beyond waters subject to CCAMLR, a Catch Documentation Scheme (CDS) for toothfish was adopted in 1999. The CDS identifies the origin of toothfish imports, determines if the toothfish were harvested consistent with CCAMLR conservation measures, monitors international trade, and provides catch data for stock assessments in the Convention Area. Although NOAA Fisheries has fully implemented the CDS in the United States, it recently published final regulations streamlining administration of the program and enhancing efforts to prevent the import of illegally harvested toothfish. Effective June 16, 2003, NOAA Fisheries will operate a pre-approval system for toothfish imports. Pre-approval will allow the agency to review toothfish catch documents sufficiently in advance of import to facilitate enforcement and provide additional economic certainty to US businesses in the toothfish trade. Information provided to CCAMLR has indicated high levels of IUU fishing in the Convention Area. The majority of CCAMLR Members agreed that catches reported as harvests from FAO Statistical Areas 51 and 57, high sea areas in the Indian Ocean adjoining the Convention Area, were not credible and were in all likelihood fish pirated from within the Convention Area. They also expressed concerns, shared by the United States, that information reported in catch documents did not match scientific understanding of toothfish distribution and potential biomass of toothfish on the high seas. Therefore, also as of June 16, 2003, no imports of fresh or frozen toothfish represented as harvested within FAO Areas 51 or 57 will be allowed entry into the United States. Importers applying for a pre-approval certificate for fish that has been harvested from either of these areas will be denied pre-approval. IWC (International Whaling Commission) The 55th Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will be held in Berlin June 16th through 19th. The Bush Administration reaffirms longstanding principles that will guide United States policy at this meeting: we will support the IWC’s commercial whaling moratorium, support aboriginal subsistence whaling, oppose lethal research whaling, and oppose the international trade of whale products. Iceland recently rejoined the IWC with a reservation to the commercial whaling moratorium. The Bush Administration welcomes Iceland as a member of the Commission, but the United States recently filed a formal objection to Iceland’s reservation. In addition, Iceland recently submitted to the IWC a plan to conduct lethal research on whales. The United States opposes lethal research and urges Iceland not to begin this program. Likewise, Japan continues to conduct lethal research with the take of up to 700 whales per year. The United States continues to urge Japan to cease the killing of whales under scientific permits. Germany will put forth a resolution on scientific whaling at the annual meeting that we intend to support. In addition, Norway and Iceland have initiated the first international trade of whale products in 14 years. The Bush Administration has urged both countries to halt this trade. Last year, Japan submitted a resolution for the consideration of Japanese community-based whaling. This resolution contained a marked change from previous proposals whereby the quota would be non-commercial, and based on the advice of the Scientific Committee. Japan is expected to present a proposal regarding this matter. We have not yet seen this proposal, but will only consider supporting it if these two criteria (non-commercial – i.e., the proposal would establish sufficient safeguards to ensure that whales that would be taken under the program are not used for commercial purposes -- and based upon the advice of the IWC Scientific Committee), at a minimum, are met. Mexico plans to put forward a resolution to create a Conservation Committee that is meant to reaffirm the conservation objective of the Convention. The United States intends to support the creation of this committee, as it would improve the governance of the Commission’s work. Italy intends to put forth a resolution on bycatch of whales. The United States intends to support this resolution, since we recognize bycatch as a serious conservation issue and it would be synergistic with the National Bycatch Strategy recently issued by NOAA Fisheries. The United States continues to work in good faith to establish a Revised Management Scheme (RMS) for commercial whaling. However, the last round of working group meetings were disappointing in that representatives of the whaling nations and their supporters did not accept any compromise put forth by the United States and others. The United States has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to develop a science-based and enforceable RMS. Our efforts, however, have been thwarted by the pro-whaling nations, which, to date, have been unwilling to agree to the incorporation of adequate monitoring measures into the RMS. At the annual meeting, Japan will likely put forth a proposal on the RMS. However, Japan’s proposal last year lacked the necessary components for a credible scheme and would have eliminated the commercial whaling moratorium and whale sanctuaries. Finally, the United States intends to support Australia and New Zealand in their proposal to establish a South Pacific Sanctuary, and Brazil’s proposal to establish a South Atlantic Sanctuary. Both of these sanctuary proposals are science-based and would help the recovery of depleted whale stocks. NAFO (Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization) NOAA has provided leadership on U.S. delegations to NAFO meetings since the United States joined the organization in 1996. NAFO manages groundfish, flatfish, and shellfish (many of which are under zero directed take regimes) in the waters of the northwest Atlantic beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Some of these stocks are rebuilding and one, yellowtail flounder, has recovered sufficiently to reestablish a directed fishery. A U.S. priority within NAFO is to reform allocation practices and obtain greater access for U.S. vessels to fish for recovering stocks. NOAA Fisheries hosted a NAFO Working Group meeting in Miami earlier this year to press for more progress in this area, but it has been slow. On the other hand, we have made considerable gains within NAFO on transparency, implementing a risk-based approach, effectively dealing with problems of fishing by non-members, and upgrading NAFO mechanisms and processes for monitoring compliance by NAFO members. Nevertheless, the issue of obtaining benefits for U.S. fishermen commensurate with the considerable financial and other contributions the United States makes to NAFO has led us to begin a reassessment of our proper role within the organization. COFI/Capacity (Committee on Fisheries, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) A major and common problem that plagues a large number of domestic and world fisheries is overcapacity in the harvesting sector. The United States has recognized this global problem for more than a decade, and has worked for years to address the issue of overcapacity in the harvesting sector through technical and policy-level consultations held under the sponsorship of FAO. Accordingly, we agreed in 1997 to consultations leading to an international plan of action for the management of fishing capacity (IPOA) and joined all the other FAO Members in approving the IPOA on this subject in 1999. NOAA Fisheries played an active role in the technical and policy-level meetings to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion. In particular, I would like to single out the efforts of NOAA Fisheries technical experts who developed definitions and measures of capacity and overcapacity for marine capture fisheries that were later endorsed by FAO, and have become the world standards. The IPOA for the management of fishing capacity included a provision calling on all signatories to develop a national plan of action for the management of fishing capacity. NOAA Fisheries has been working on this task for the last few years, but crafting a national plan of action for the management of fishing capacity has been a challenge. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act does not mandate the regulation of fishing capacity, and certain tools that would enable the Councils and NOAA Fisheries to manage capacity were either legally unavailable - - in the case of individual fishing quotas until October 2002 - - or were untried and therefore untested - - in the case of Fishing Capacity Reduction Programs under Section 312(b)-(e). Nevertheless, NOAA Fisheries has prepared a draft national plan of action that we believe is consistent with our legal mandates and authorities. Our national plan of action has gone through internal and public review. We are in the process of making changes in response to comments provided by our constituents through a Federal Register notice of availability. The comment period closed in March of this year. We expect to send the final plan to FAO this year. The United States, through the Committee on Fisheries (COFI), also provided leadership in the development of IPOAs regarding seabirds, sharks, and IUU fishing. The United States has completed development of its NPOAs relative to seabirds and sharks, and has developed a draft NPOA on IUU fishing that was presented at COFI earlier this year. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) The Bush Administration continues to believe that CITES can serve as a useful adjunct to traditional fisheries management through its comprehensive permitting and trade control protocols. Such systems can deter IUU fishing and assist in promoting domestic management programs for commercially exploited marine species. CITES was designed to support sustainable international trade in fauna and flora, but is not a substitute for scientific management and domestic regulation of fishery resources. In instances where no RFMO is in place (as is the case with queen conch and sturgeon), a CITES listing can encourage the establishment of regional management mechanisms. In the case of queen conch (listed in 1992), since 1996, NOAA Fisheries and the Caribbean Fishery Management Council have organized the International Queen Conch Initiative, which provides a forum for countries in the Wider Caribbean to develop coordinated approaches to regional management of the species. In the case of sturgeon (listed in 1997), regional cooperation among range States has led to the setting of intergovernmental quotas for sturgeon species in the Caspian Sea region. Closer cooperation between CITES and FAO should further strengthen these efforts, as FAO is experienced in supporting regional fisheries management organizations in developing regions of the world. The Bush Administration has also supported cooperative efforts between CITES and CCAMLR to improve the management and enforcement of measures taken to conserve toothfish and potentially other Southern Ocean species. In addition, we continue to advocate the continued linkage of CITES listings with actions taken by the IWC to conserve whale stocks, such that the applicable trade prohibitions under CITES reflect the decisions on commercial whaling established by the recognized international management authority. Deep Sea Fishing From a global perspective, as more and more fish stocks have become overfished, the search for economically harvestable fish resources has led displaced fishing vessels to deep sea seamounts and mid-oceanic ridges in high seas areas beyond the jurisdictions of any nation and beyond the reach of many international management regimes. These areas have several common characteristics: they are isolated and fragile ecosystems, and there tends to be a paucity of legal frameworks within which to manage the fisheries in these areas in a sustainable or any other manner. Areas of concern include deep sea seamounts and mid-oceanic ridges in the Indo-Pacific Oceans and the Atlantic Ocean. The lack of legal management frameworks makes these areas one of the last frontiers in the world’s oceans. Unmanaged and uncontrolled fisheries in these areas represent the greatest threat to the conservation of biodiversity due to human factors, since other threats (e.g., due to ship discharges and other sources of pollution) are already at least potentially addressed by existing international legal frameworks. There are a number of international meetings dealing with these problems that are scheduled during the balance of this year and beyond. NOAA Fisheries intends to participate actively in addressing these matters because we are all too familiar with the portability of deep sea fishing fleets in the current environment of overfishing and overcapacity. We first faced these challenges with regard to large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing on the high seas. We will bring our responsibilities for recovering and conserving protected species and habitats, and our concern with reducing bycatch and addressing IUU fishing to bear in addressing these problems as part of NOAA’s global marine stewardship mission. The World’s Fish Stocks and Their Management On May 15, 2003, an article entitled “Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities” was published in the scientific journal Nature. The article is consistent with the current scientific view of impacts of global fisheries on marine ecosystems, but determining that fish stocks worldwide have declined is not a new conclusion. NOAA Fisheries scientists share many of the views identified by the authors of the article. However, there continues to be significant uncertainty regarding what may have gone on before data were collected systematically. Although some conclusions reached by the authors that are global in scope (e.g., regarding overfishing and resource declines) are widely shared in the scientific community, the conclusions reached about specific fisheries and ocean areas are affected by this uncertainty. We recognize that world ecosystems have been, and will continue to be, altered as a result of human activities. Rebuilding stocks to healthy levels includes a human impact component that must be considered. Therefore, NOAA is increasingly focusing its attention on scientific research into the impacts of marine fishing on our ecosystems. Because this is a global issue, we are working with the international community to address the multiplicity of issues that surround sustainable utilization of living marine resources. Although scientific research is an important component, the United States has made progress in a number of areas of fisheries management. For example, the United States is a strong leader in swordfish and billfish conservation through the ICCAT. The United States is also a leader in technology development (e.g., long line gear) and transfer as it relates to sea bird and sea turtle bycatch. Nonetheless, we are not satisfied with the current state of international fisheries management, and we will continue to promote the establishment of rebuilding programs for overfished stocks, as we have done in ICCAT and NAFO, and improved, science-based management, as we are doing in all the regional fisheries management organizations of which we are a member. Fish Subsidies Many commercially-traded fish stocks are fully exploited or over exploited. While it is generally acknowledged that ineffective or poorly enforced management regimes in global fisheries are the principal culprits in the decline of certain stocks, there is reason to believe that global levels of subsidies (estimated at between $10-15 billion annually) have exacerbated the problem. For this reason, World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministers agreed in Doha, Qatar in December 2001 to clarify and improve existing WTO rules on fisheries subsidies. The World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg South Africa in September 2002, further committed the global community to reduce and eliminate subsidies that lead to overcapacity and overfishing. The United States has actively supported and contributed to work on fisheries subsidies in a variety of fora, and has long advocated WTO action on this issue. We believe that the fisheries subsidies negotiations are an important part of the WTO’s commitment to making trade, development, and environmental policies mutually supportive: in other words, a demonstration that trade liberalization is a “win-win-win.” We have therefore been working hard in Geneva, along with a group of like-minded countries, known as the “friends of fish,” to fulfill the Doha mandate and establish better disciplines on fisheries subsidies. Although a few countries have slowed the negotiations somewhat, progress toward a successful conclusion is being made. International Bycatch Reduction Activities In the September 2000 Annual Report to Congress on International Bycatch Agreements, required by Section 202(h) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, NOAA Fisheries concluded, and the Department of State concurred, that seeking international agreements with foreign nations conducting pelagic longline fishing operations for Atlantic and Pacific highly migratory species was necessary and appropriate to protect endangered and threatened sea turtles. An international strategy was developed and detailed in the June 2001 Report to Congress. In January 2002, Assistant Administrator Hogarth appointed an interagency International Bycatch Reduction Task Force to carry out the strategy. Although the initial focus of this effort was to reduce sea turtle bycatch in longline fisheries internationally, it also took on responsibilities relating to bycatch issues involving sharks and seabirds. It has since been fully integrated into our broader NOAA Fisheries National Bycatch Strategy. We continue to host and participate in international working groups in support of bycatch mitigation. A few examples of these include: ▸ Participation and financial support for the Second International Fishermen’s Forum in November 2002, which focused on sea turtle and seabird bycatch mitigation; ▸ Participation and financial support of an Asia-Pacific Economic Forum Fisheries Working Group Shark Workshop, which included bycatch issues, in Huatulco, Mexico in December 2002; ▸ Planning and hosting an international technical workshop on reducing sea turtle interactions with longline gear in February 2003, in Seattle, Washington; ▸ Securing State Department funding to support the meeting of the Parties to the First Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention, to be held in San Jose, Costa Rica, in August 2003; and ▸ Planning for an interdisciplinary workshop to be co-sponsored by the International Center for Living Aquatic Marine Resource Management and others on the conservation needs of sea turtles in the Pacific Basin, planned for November 2003 in Bellagio, Italy. The Task Force is preparing a report of its activities during the first year of operation, and I would be happy to provide copies of it when completed. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to review how NOAA Fisheries is conducting the tasks assigned it pursuant to the many international fisheries’ treaties and conventions with which the United States is involved. The Bush Administration is committed to working with our state and federal partners for the effective management of our Nation’s fisheries resources. This concludes my testimony, Mr. Chairman. I am prepared to respond to any questions Members of the Committee may have.
Witness Panel 2
Dr. Patrick J. Sullivan
Chairman McCain, Members of the Committee, thank you for the invitation to discuss the U.S. Role in International Fisheries Management. A significant number of the world’s fisheries are not in good shape. The Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations Dr. Jacques Diouf at the Reykjavik Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem (1-4 October 2001) stated that 50 percent of the world’s marine fishery resources are fully exploited, 25 percent are overexploited and about 25 percent could support higher exploitation rates. He goes on to state that “Despite warning, the trend towards more overfishing observed since the early 1970s has not yet reversed.” Similar concerns can be raise here at home as well. The 2001 Annual Report to Congress by the National Marine Fisheries Service states that of the stocks whose status is known 163 are considered in healthy condition while 81 are considered to be overfished. Given the general consensus that too many populations are overfished, why hasn’t more action been taken? The reason is that fisheries management represents a troubled juxtaposition of the human need for these resources in terms of food and protein, economic income, culture, and recreation with the challenges this need causes for the environment in terms of population sustainability, species viability, and ecosystem stability. Fisheries science, while making reasonable progress towards understanding our marine ecosystems and the populations therein, faces the daunting task of providing information and advice about these complex systems to constituencies that represent the seemingly competing objectives of resource utilization and environmental conservation. Fisheries management is difficult. Tough decisions must be made that influence people’s livelihoods and their quality of living, but these decisions also influence ecosystems and consequently the quality of the environment. It may seem that the objectives voiced by resource utilization and conservation groups are in conflict, but in fact both should represent similar overarching goals. Both seek a healthy functioning productive marine ecosystem. Why the conflict? Often the short-term demands on a fisheries resource, such as keeping fishers employed, markets satisfied, or fishing communities economically viable, overshadow the very real, but difficult to see, long-term consequences that continued high demand can bring about. In situations where demand for the resource is high and the long-term consequences are seemingly unclear or uncertain, the tendency is to remain at status quo. Unfortunately, such a response only digs the hole deeper, making any remedial action difficult to take often resulting in severe economic and ecological repercussions. One symptom of this unresolved conflict is indicated in the letter to the journal Nature by Myers and Worm (2003, Vol 423:280-283) on the “Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities”. But the signs of something amiss in our marine ecosystems are widely known. The Pew Commission Report “America’s Living Oceans” (2003), the National Marine Fisheries Service Report to Congress “Toward Rebuilding America’s Marine Fisheries” (2003) and the National Academy of Public Administration Report “Courts, Congress, and Constituencies: Managing Fisheries by Default” (2002) indicate the need for something other than status quo in how we deal with fisheries and with our marine ecosystems. A number of National Academy of Sciences National Research Council (NRC) Reports have also come out on this and related topics over the last ten years (i.e. 1994 Improving the Management of U.S. Marine Fisheries, 1996 The Bering Sea Ecosystem, 1996 Upstream: Salmon and Society in the Pacific Northwest, 1998 Improving Fish Stock Assessments, 1998 Review of the Northeast Fishery Stock Assessments, 1999 Sharing the Fish: Toward a National Policy on Individual Fishing Quotas, 1999 Sustaining Marine Fisheries, 2000 Improving the Collection, Management and Use of Marine Fisheries Data, 2000 Recruiting Fishery Scientists, 2001 Marine Protected Areas, 2002 Science and Its Role in the National Marine Fisheries Service). We know there’s a problem. A few years ago I testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans as chair of one of these NRC committees. During that testimony I tried to convey that uncertainty plays a large role in determining the limits of our understanding of fisheries populations. This uncertainty about the responses of marine systems to human intervention is not confined to the United States alone. I have reviewed and provided advice to Iceland on cod, New Zealand on hoki, Canada on black cod, and Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, on southern bluefin tuna. As a population dynamicist for ten years with the International Pacific Halibut Commission I provided advice on the halibut fishery (another longline fishery) in the North Pacific, and have provided advice to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council and currently to the New England Fisheries Management Council on fisheries science, stock assessment and harvest management strategies. The common theme in all these systems is uncertainty. A respected fisheries scientist John Shepherd was once quoted as saying “Estimating the number of fish in the sea is just the same as counting the number of trees in a forest, except you can’t see the fish and they move.” Uncertainty is a fact of life, but one I think we can respond appropriately to. However, the actions we take must be thoughtful and informed and we must recognize that in most circumstances if we err, we should err on the side of safety for our ecosystem. This guiding principle is called the precautionary approach and it represents an attempt to recognize that errors that impact the ecosystem may be irrevocable. Just to clarify, I do not interpret this principle to mean that being risk averse when it comes to fisheries management should mean that we should not make use of our ocean’s resources. We cannot all live on mountain tops in Nepal, and even if we all did this we would still require resources (e.g. rice, air, water) to sustain ourselves. No, I think the ocean is a fantastic resource as well as an incredible ecosystem, and if interacted with reasonably could result in an ecologically balanced economically viable partnership. How might we do this better? First we should recognize this uncertainty and adjust to it, which may mean operating in a risk-averse fashion where information is lacking. I was thinking about an appropriate analogy on a recent trip home to Ithaca, NY, from a meeting I was attending in Woods Hole, MA. The best I could come up with on the interstate was that fisheries management was a lot like driving on the turnpike. Some of us like using cruise control. It is a bit less taxing, but we need a wide open road to make use of it. Some of us like keeping our foot on the pedal in seeking out an optimal speed. But in driving this way we must be diligent and keep a much closer eye on the road. Right now in fisheries management for many fisheries I believe we are at high speed on the turnpike in the fog using cruise control. We cannot keep it up and we are already seeing the consequences of taking too many risks. Quite often the science gets the blame for errors that occur when we try to manage our fisheries. And in some circumstances this blame is properly placed. However, asking scientists to remove all the fog so we can drive at top speed is unrealistic. And presupposing that we can control marine systems to the level that we are presently attempting is overly risky. It is overly risky ecologically. It is overly risky economically. I believe the best way for us to achieve an economically and ecologically balanced relationship with the ocean worldwide is to set the stage for doing so at home. To do this I think we must create realistic flexible ecosystem-based fishery management plans. These plans may need to step beyond optimum and maximum yield objectives towards constructing objectives that create opportunity without encountering undue risk. Think again of the problem raised by the observed depletion of predators. We are working with complex ecosystems here. Our objective should be to fit into it. The balance that results may not be optimal for all stakeholders, and so perhaps we should better define what opportunities we wish to create and what risks we wish to avoid. The Myers and Worm letter to Nature is just a warning. The warnings are abundant. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the Pew Commission, the National Academy of Sciences are all providing well thought out and appropriate advice. Still tough decisions need to be made.
Mr. Richard Ruais
Mr. Chairman, it is indeed a great privilege to provide this Committee with testimony on the critical issue of the U.S. role in international fisheries management. I have been involved with domestic and international fishery management for 25 years, first as staff with the New England Fishery Management Council and since 1991 as Executive Director of East Coast Tuna Association representing giant Atlantic bluefin tuna fishermen who use rod and reel, harpoon and small-scale purse seine vessels in the Northeast. Since 1991, I have participated in every plenary meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas and participated in the domestic process of developing U.S. objectives and strategies for the Commission meetings. Obviously, one of the reasons for this hearing is the recent controversy in the media surrounding an article published in Nature titled “Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities” by Ransom A. Myers & Boris Worm. The fact that this study contributed to this hearing is regrettably the only positive contribution to fishery conservation and management one can find about the study and its conclusions. Supported by the Pew Charitable Trust the study is part of a well-funded, devious strategic campaign with domestic and international components to create an atmosphere of false crisis in the public mind over the status of our shared high seas and coastal fisheries resources. The underlying objective appears to be to further excessively harm commercial and recreational fisheries and the worldwide fish eating public. Pew’s directed antagonism towards commercial fisheries is continuing to shift attention away from the ecosystem damages from offshore oil and gas exploration and spills, as evidenced by the sparsity of media coverage of the ecological disaster caused by the Prestige breaking up off the coast of France last year. As recent spills in Narragansett Bay and Buzzards Bay have graphically demonstrated, this is counterproductive to any efforts to insure proper controls to minimize such damage in US waters. The domestic component is being carried out by the Pew Ocean Commission, which has been described as “a self appointed, elitist group with a vested interest in fabricating crisis” (see attached The Truth About New England’s Fisheries) Mr. Chairman, there is a tidal wave of criticism developing in the scientific community over the Myer & Worm analysis and conclusions which have already been deemed to be “fundamentally flawed” (see attached) by noted Pacific large pelagic researchers such as Dr. John Sibert. Dr. Sibert goes on to note that “Myers and Worm do the fisheries community a disservice by applying a simplistic analysis to the available data which exaggerates declines in abundance and implies unrealistic rebuilding benchmarks.” Dr. Gary Sharp (Center for Climate/OceanResources Study) puts it more bluntly with: “Their (Myers & Worm) meta-analysis as reported is not good science-as exposed by the most recent nonsense…presented via Nature, stating that All Large Ocean Fish are at 10% of historical levels. That statement denies what we know, and the many complexities that are not explained, or even mentioned in an article. The missing bits only show that the authors know nothing about the majority of the fisheries they claim to, nor the knowledge that is available.” Dr. Vidar Wespestad (20 years prior service with Alaska Fisheries Center of NOAA) concludes about the article: “I can clearly state that these views do not hold water in our region, and in fact most of the recently published Nature article is erroneous and people truly knowledgeable are writing a rebuttal.” There is much more Mr. Chairman but we will let the tidal wave of scientific criticism underway set the scientific record straight over the next several months. To use a finding that pelagic fish stocks experienced a significant reduction from virgin condition over 40 years ago in an unqualified fashion to scare the consuming public to stop eating healthy seafood (as the notorious enemy of fishermen Pew Trusts has been repeatedly doing) is irresponsible and undermines the incredible amount of international work ongoing to fix existing resource and management problems. Regrettably, the Pew Trusts shamefully ignores the reality that more than half the world’s population depends on fish for a significant portion of its food protein. That it can be shown that the onset of fishing reduces stocks over time in some predictable amount from their pristine condition is not news to scientists or to fishermen. Scientists have long been aware that for many stocks a reduction of at least 50% from a virgin “unfished” condition is fully expected in order to arrive at a stock condition where full and sustainable exploitation can take place. As a matter of fact, in an interview broadcast on NPR last week, Myers stated “When fisheries management is used and used effectively, there is not a concern about the biomass reducing by a factor of 50 or even 60 or even probably 70%”. This is why the Myer and Worm suspect finding of a 90% reduction is irrelevant to international and domestic fish managers today, and is simply inconsistent with our actual observations and experience. The correct challenge to fishery managers is to evaluate the condition of each stock in relation to its estimated maximum sustainable yield, and to develop fish policies to achieve that yield. Mr. Chairman, the real truth and news the media should be reporting is that the fishing industry and its representatives are not in the mode of denying that we continue to have cases of serious resource and management shortcomings domestically and internationally. On all coasts of this country however, and for at least the last decade, the fishing industry has aggressively pursued innovative and effective remedies to fish resource and management problems at great industry cost. The real picture is that under the NMFS leadership of Rollie Schmitten and Dr. Bill Hogarth there has been an unprecedented level of cooperation between U.S. fishing industry and government and great strides have been made to restore many stocks of large and small fish. NMFS reports that the latest data shows that most U.S. stocks are no longer overfished under increasing regulations required by the Sustainable Fisheries Act and of those that remain overfished greater than 80% are recovering. The New England groundfish complex has increased by over 150% in the past five years. The New England scallop fishery is now rebuilt. In California, the sardine fishery that Pew Commission Chairman Leon Panetta is fond of referring to was destroyed by unusual weather patterns, not overfishing. The sardines have returned to Monterey Bay and are sustainably managed coast-wide. In Alaska, where fisheries account for about half the seafood landed annually in the U.S., crab, salmon, halibut and groundfish fisheries are being harvested at sustainable levels. As a consequence of the aggressive efforts and leadership of the US Government and the US longline industry at ICCAT, the North Atlantic Swordfish stock has been fully rebuilt in half the time expected and, along with the South Atlantic Swordfish stock, both are now producing the maximum sustainable yield. Still, Pew-generated media such as the very recent Washington Post article is misinforming the public that Atlantic swordfish are seriously depleted and should not be consumed. Regarding western Atlantic bluefin tuna (the former “poster-child” fish of green groups seeking “charismatic megafauna” for profitable fundraising), ICCAT’s latest stock assessment shows the largest year-class since 1973 of new giant size spawners are now available to drive the established rebuilding program to completion and on schedule. In a broader context, the United Nations Food and Agriculture finds that global capture fisheries production is stable with 72% of fish stocks are either under, moderately or fully exploited. Coalitions of fishing industry organizations believe that these successes and others demonstrate that the domestic and international systems in place for the conservation and management of our fisheries, while not perfect especially in the international context, are working well. This is in sharp contrast to what the authors of the Nature article, and the Pew-funded media campaign have led the public to believe. For example, largely as a result of outstanding, aggressive leadership by U.S. Commissioners to ICCAT since the early 1990’s (and in particular the efforts of ICCAT Commisioners Rollie Schmitten, Dr. Bill Hogarth and Glenn Delaney), ICCAT has been on the cutting edge of developing and implementing legally sustainable international processes leading to sanctions for non-compliance and agreements to address other critical international management infrastructure shortcomings. We welcome any assistance this Committee can render to reasonably speed up the process and eliminate remaining obstacles to effective, efficient and equitable long term conservation and management. I want to bring the Committee’s attention to the most critical problem areas remaining in many international conservation and management organizations such as ICCAT and where substantial improvements are necessary. These include the lack of political will among certain Nations to support generally accepted conservation standards and consequent failure to agree on policies to achieve conservation objectives; poor compliance records with established conservation agreements by some contracting parties and; a continuing problem with illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU and often referred to as “pirate fishing”). In the ICCAT context, the European Community, North African countries bounding the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea (in particular Morocco) and Taiwan standout as countries lacking the political will to embrace the responsibilities of conserving our shared highly migratory resources. I would like to call the Committee’s attention to an April 25, 2003 letter (attached) to the Honorable Pascal Lamy, European Community Commissioner for Trade from Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans protesting the EU’s lack of political will to follow ICCAT scientific advice on the establishment of sustainable quotas for eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna. The Secretary notes with disappointment that the EU’s policy to set bluefin quotas 6,000 mt above the scientific advice for each of the next 4 years “undermines ICCAT’s ability to effectively manage Atlantic stocks and threatens the viability of U.S. recreational and commercial fishing industry.” The letter also notified the EU that “positions such as these not only threaten the long-term future of our shared marine resources …they also have the potential to lead to serious friction in U.S.-EU trade relations”. This letter represents a breakthrough for the U.S. Commissioners at ICCAT who have long sought support and action by the Administration to pressure the EU for more conservation leadership within ICCAT. The Commissioners focus on the EU recognizes that the EU is the most significant harvester in nearly all of the species under ICCAT purview and because of the influence they maintain with North African countries. In this respect, the EU can either chose to set a powerful international example of resource stewardship or provide a terrible example and excuse for other countries not to comply. The letter is a terrific step forward because it elevates ICCAT into the arena of serious bilateral trade relations and policy rather then just another fish or environmental issue. Our industries are very grateful to the Secretary and Under Secretary Grant Aldonis and Senior Policy Advisor Sloan Rappoport for the development of this letter. It remains to be seen whether this threat alone will influence a change in EU policies or whether further direct interventions by high-ranking officials within Commerce and State Department and implementation of trade sanctions will be required. We would hope this Committee could find additional avenues to influence further support within the Administration and elsewhere to pressure ICCAT parties for compliance. I would also refer the Committee to a letter to Mr. John Spencer, Head, Unit of International and Regional Arrangements, EU from Dr. William Hogarth, dated April 23, 2003. This important letter also raises serious concerns about the EU conservation behavior, but this time in the context of consideration by the Secretary of Commerce to certify the EU for “diminishing the effectiveness” of ICCAT pursuant to the Pelly Amendment of the Fishermen’s Protective Act. The request for such a certification was made by several east coast governors in support of their coastal and high seas fishermen. If the Secretary were to certify EU under the Pelly Amendment, it could lead to trade sanctions against the EU until they adopt a stronger conservation ethic. This could be an effective tool, but despite a number of certifications made over the years, the U.S. government has declined to impose actual economic trade sanctions (except in one case). I am afraid there are few in the international community that fear the certification threat. Nevertheless, we are very grateful to Dr. Hogarth for exercising this option as a means to elevate ICCAT issues and increase pressure on the EU. Mr. Chairman, I must reiterate that within international fora for fisheries conservation, the U.S. is the leading voice for tough conservation standards and measures. We often lead by example, subjecting our fishermen to even greater fishing restrictions than our foreign counterparts. This is clearly the case in our commercial and recreational fisheries for Atlantic swordfish and Atlantic bluefin tuna. But it is also established biological reality that we are responsible for a very small portion of mortality on these stocks and we cannot successfully conserve these stocks unilaterally without cooperation from all of the major fishing nations. There are no international fish police to enforce ICCAT measures on the high seas. Instead, the marketplace for these species is the arena for effective ICCAT enforcement. ICCAT has recognized this and has adopted what are perhaps the most progressive and aggressive multilateral trade provisions and policies governing ICCAT-illegal fish produced by both member and non-member nations. Nonetheless, the US continues to provide one of the world’s largest markets for fish taken in contravention of ICCAT rules and regulations. The reason is that the US government has not been sufficiently aggressive with its current authority or with its fiscal resources to stop this black market. It is my view, shared by many in our US ICCAT team, that the US has sufficient multilateral authority from ICCAT to accomplish 2 important objectives, each of which would enormously improve the conservation benefits of our achievements at ICCAT thus far, and tremendously strengthen US effectiveness at ICCAT in the future: 1) to immediately put into place the requirements, procedures and funding and manpower necessary to prevent entry into the US of any ICCAT species caught illegally by member or non-member nations, including fish of Atlantic origin suspected of being laundered through Pacific markets, as well as fish presently harvested by a fleet of more than 200 large pirate vessels; and 2) to implement similar measures that will enable the US to use its market to leverage compliance from those nations that do not adhere to ICCAT bycatch requirements such as those that apply with respect to billfish. Yet, the US undermines its own efforts by allowing nations that ignore billfish bycatch requirements to openly market their directed species catch such as swordfish and tunas in the US marketplace. In the interest of having conservation programs be efficient and equitable it is clear to many in the fishing industry and many in government that the fastest and most effective way to improve the international conservation picture is for the U.S. to employ such legitimate trade sanctions against countries undermining the effectiveness of international programs. Those US fishermen sacrificing under the burden of ICCAT restrictions have a right to expect that the U.S. Government will, at least, insure that fish caught in violation of ICCAT programs by contracting parties or “pirate” IUU fishing vessels not be allowed to unfairly compete with legitimate US-caught fish in U.S. markets. Another opportunity for this Committee to significantly advance the conservation and management of highly migratory fish in the Atlantic is at an upcoming bilateral meeting here in the US with the EU and, where their top ICCAT officials will be present. Mr. Chairman I respectfully recommend to the Committee that you and some Members insist upon a meeting with these EU officials while they are here, along with the 3 US ICCAT Commissoners, to discuss EU fish conservation policies. I urge you to ask of the EU how they can possibly justify forcing a quota policy for eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna 6,000 mt annually above the level recommended by ICCAT (including European scientists) scientists for the next 4 years. This policy will not produce “stability” as claimed, rather it risks decimation of eastern and Mediterranean assemblages of bluefin tuna many of which are, with certainty, bound for a casual and ordinary trans-Atlantic swim to our coastal waters. I can assure you that elevating this ICCAT issue to your high level of attention will unquestionably advance US interests and large highly migratory fish conservation. This will particularly be the case if you insure that all three US ICCAT Commissioners are allowed to participate in this designated government-to-government meeting. This designation is occasionally employed by lower level staff, particularly within the Department of State, who may not share NMFS leadership strong resolve to put our best team forward. It is critically important that all three presidentially appointed US ICCAT Commissioners be afforded the opportunity to fully participate. Finally, there are 2 changes to the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act we believe will strengthen US leadership at ICCAT. The first required change would be to lengthen the terms of the non-government commissioners from the current maximum of 2 to 3 consecutive year terms as is the case for regional fishery council members. We have made this request to the Subcommittee in September of 1999. We note, in particular, that with respect to foreign delegations at ICCAT there appears to be no such term limits and that such continuity can offer strategic advantages at the negotiating table. The job of ICCAT commissioners requires considerable technical expertise and time to master the craft of negotiating with delegations from 32 other fishing nations. As noted earlier, the US currently has an excellent winning team. The arbitrary two-term limit regrettably will break up this team at a crucial time at ICCAT . The second change would be to, again similar to the regional council system, provide per diem remuneration for the recreational and commercial commissioners while on official ICCAT related business. This would recognize the considerable time and effort required to fulfill the responsibilities and carry out the mandate entrusted to these Commissioners under their Presidential appointments. This change should also make it clear that the recreational and commercial commissioners are official government representatives while fulfilling their ICCAT responsibilities and as such, allow continuous participation in all government-to -government meetings related to ICCAT business. The recreational and commercial ICCAT Commissioners are an essential part of the US ICCAT team and have responsibilities entrusted to them by the President. It is highly inappropriate and counterproductive to keep them in the dark on issues critical to the success of ICCAT. Thank you Mr. Chairman and Members of this Committee for holding this hearing and for helping to advance the conservation and management of our coastal and shared highly migratory fish stocks.
Dr. Ransom A. Myers
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee: My name is Dr. Ransom A. Myers. I am a quantitative fishery population biologist by training and experience. I received a B.Sc. in Physics from Rice University in 1974, a M.Sc. in Mathematics from Dalhousie University in 1981, and a Ph.D. in Biology from Dalhousie University in 1984. Between 1983 and 1997, I was employed as a research scientist for the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans. In 1997, I was awarded the Killam Chair in Ocean Studies at Dalhousie University, which is an endowed research professorship. My specialty includes the population dynamics and management of marine fish and invertebrates. I have published over 100 refereed scientific papers and six book chapters in my area of expertise. I have served on a number of commissions and committees that were established to study the population dynamics of marine organisms. These include the Board of Directors of the Ocean Institute of Canada, the NOAA review of the International Whaling Commission’s Revised Management Procedure, and the Methods Working Group of the International Commission for the Exploration of the Sea. I am presently supervising 10 graduate students working on population dynamics of marine species. STATE OF WORLD’S FISH STOCKS – Only 10% of Large Fish in the World’s Oceans Remain Last month we published an article in the scientific journal Nature, describing the results of our research on the global decline of large fish due to overfishing (see attached). Our major finding is that we have only 10% of all large fish—both open ocean species (tuna, swordfish, and marlin) and large groundfish (cod, halibut, skates, and flounder)—left in the sea. Our study shows that industrial fisheries take only ten to fifteen years to effect this change. Since 1950, we have rapidly reduced large fish populations between the tropics and the poles to less than 10% of what they were. Their depletion not only threatens the future of these species and the fisheries that depend on them, but it could also bring about a complete re-organization of global ocean ecosystems, with unknown consequences. For this study, I spent 10 years assembling data sets representing all major types of fisheries in the world. We used data from scientific surveys for the continental shelves and data from pelagic longlines, the world’s most widespread fishing gear, for the open ocean, which cover all oceans except the circumpolar seas. These longlines catch a wide range of species in a consistent way over vast areas. Whereas longline fishers used to catch 10 fish per 100 hooks in many areas, now they are lucky to catch one. Large fish are not only declining in numbers, but with intense fishing pressure they can never attain the body sizes they once did. Where detailed data are available, we see that the average body size of these top predators is less than half of what it was in the past. For example, the few blue marlin that remain today reach one fifth of the weight they once did. In many cases, these fish are under such intense fishing pressure that they never have the chance to reproduce. Recovery requires a substantial overall reduction of fishing mortality (the percentage of fish killed each year). This includes reducing quotas, reducing overall fishing effort, cutting subsidies, reducing bycatch, and creating networks of marine reserves. I believe that a minimum reduction of 50% of fishing mortality in the world’s pelagic longline fisheries may be necessary to avoid further declines of particularly sensitive species such as large sharks. Even greater reductions are required to obtain the Maximum Sustainable Yields. Once stocks are restored to higher abundance, we could get just as much fish out of the ocean with only 1/3 to 1/10 of the fishing effort. Fishers and communities who depend on these resources would see substantial benefits in the long run. Although the rapidity and extent of the decline is shocking, our results were not surprising to marine ecologists and fisheries biologists who are familiar with overexploited marine ecosystems. Analyses carried out by Dr. Daniel Pauly (University of British Columbia) using a modeling approach in the North Atlantic, and by Dr. J. Jackson of Scripts Institute of Oceanography using historical data from coastal regions, have come to similar conclusions: the present biomass of large fish in the oceans is only a small fraction of the pre-exploitation biomass. The analysis we published in Nature is consistent with, and independent of, these assessments. The conclusions of our analysis would not be so shocking if it were not for the problem of shifting baselines. This is the problem whereby our conception of what is natural in marine ecosystems reflects only the recent state of the system, in which many species are at historically low levels of abundance. Thus we lose sight of the true magnitude of many declines. Here are some examples of marine species whose true declines have been obscured in part by the problem of a shifting baseline: 1. Atlantic halibut, which once supported a very valuable fishery in New England, is now all but extinct in this region. 2. Before European settlement, there were more green turtles in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico than there are now wildebeests in the Serengeti. The remnant populations of this species are now only a very small fraction of what they were. 3. Atlantic bluefin tuna (and hence its fisheries) has been eliminated from over half its former range (populations in the south Atlantic and in the North Sea are gone). Production from this valuable species is thus only a small fraction of what could be achieved. 4. Swordfish were once harvested in great numbers using harpoons close to shore between Long Island and northern Nova Scotia. 5. Even before 1900, once abundant Atlantic salmon had been eliminated from southern New England rivers, and this species is now virtually extinct in the Northeast. 6. The great cod stocks of Newfoundland and the Grand Banks have been declared Endangered by the Canadian government. 7. On the west coast, valuable abalone populations have been eliminated in many areas, and show little, or no, sign of recovery. We must recognize that fishing is a strong agent of ecological change that has altered our marine ecosystems through many population collapses and extirpations. It is critical that we do not allow our perception of what is natural in our oceans to foster complacency about these losses. Consequence 1 of our study: Fisheries Yields Can be Greatly Increased by Responsible Management Our study clearly shows that most fisheries in the world overexploit to the point that they produce only a small proportion of the potential fisheries yield. Recovery through responsible management is possible. For example, the increase in catch by the fishermen of New England is clear evidence of what improved management can do. Although by the early 1990’s in New England, fish stocks had been reduced to less than one tenth their original levels, reduced fishing and the use of closed areas have been used to rebuild the stocks by 150%. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, however, they still require rebuilding by another 400% of the present levels to achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield. They predict that this increase will result in a significant increase in fisheries yield (personal communication, Dr. Steven A. Murawski of NMFS, Woods Hole). Scallops have increased in the area with limited fishing on Georges Bank by an extraordinary 22 times in only 6 years. The experience on Georges Bank clearly shows what can be achieved with appropriate management; in many cases, e.g. scallops, the results may exceed the predictions of both scientists and fishers. Nevertheless, more than half of the fish stocks in the region remain overexploited and the NMFS estimates that the aggregate groundfish biomass needs to increase by 3 times. Unfortunately, many species will take a long time to recover, particularly those that take many years to mature. It will be many years before bluefin tuna, Atlantic halibut, or Pacific ocean perch return to levels where they can produce maximum sustainable yields. Consequence 2 of our study: Present Fishing Patterns Will Result in the Eventual Worldwide Extinction of Many Large Marine Species - in Particular Sharks Overexploitation threatens the future of many large vertebrates. Many species of tuna, sea turtles, and seabirds are now conservation concerns because of intense fishing pressure. My students and I have recently demonstrated in a paper published in the journal Science that many shark populations off the eastern U.S. coast have undergone rapid and large declines. Populations of hammerhead, great white, and thresher sharks have each declined by about 80% within the last 15 years. Recently my students have extended this analysis back to the start of commercial longline fishing using surveys carried out by the US Bureau of Fisheries in the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Atlantic. In all cases we found that the shark populations were at a small fraction of their original abundance. In an extreme case, we found that the number of spawning female oceanic white tip sharks in the Gulf of Mexico is one thousandth of their initial abundance. This is alarming because this was once the most common pelagic shark in the region. Other researchers have found similar results around the world. I believe that the present global situation of sharks parallels the situation of whales forty years ago. In both cases, fishing was threatening the viability of future populations of large marine vertebrates. When the analysis of the state of the world’s whale populations was first presented forty years ago there was extreme resistance to changing management policy. However, effective management action was taken, and the whale species of the world were saved. Effective management action is now needed for sharks. Overexploitation of sharks occurs in almost every area where they are fished, because sharks have little resilience to fishing pressure (they have few young and require many years to reach maturity), and because of a lack of sensible management. Overexploitation often occurs because sharks are caught in multispecies fisheries in which the target species are much more productive than the shark species. This phenomenon occurs in the pelagic longline fishery which targets the much more productive tunas, and even in the bottom longline fishery on the southeastern U.S. coast which targets more productive shark species at the expense of less productive ones. The overexploitation of sharks is an example of a very general phenomenon in multispecies fisheries, whereby the most sensitive species become quickly overfished, while the more productive species continue to drive the fisheries. State of US Fish Stocks There are examples of well managed fisheries in the United States. Alaska, in particular, stands out in comparison to international standards. A key management policy that was followed in Alaska, and is seldom effectively used elsewhere, is that they managed the multispecies fishery so that no single species was overfished, even though this meant that the biomass of some species was kept at a higher level than required to produce Maximum Sustainable Yield. In particular, this management policy aimed to prevent overharvesting of Pacific halibut, a species that is very valuable but also very sensitive to fishing pressure. This allowed fishing mortality on the whole community to be kept at sustainable levels. In contrast, in New England and eastern Canada no such management policy was in place, which resulted in the virtual commercial extinction of Atlantic halibut, and the eventual overexploitation of all the groundfish stocks. The present management policy for New England has resulted in a partial recovery of groundfish stocks, something that Canada and Europe have not been able to achieve. The partial recovery in New England is a great achievement. However, it is crucial that the groundfish stocks in New England be allowed to fully recover to the point where they can provide the much larger yields that they are capable of producing. Unfortunately, the partial recovery in New England is not typical of most US fisheries. More typical are cases like the red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, where fishing mortality has not been reduced despite continued scientific advice, or the top predators on the coral reefs of the main islands of Hawaii which are at only 1.5% of virgin levels according to a recent US Fish and Wildlife study. Much work is still required on US fisheries management to improve the productivity of marine populations. Improving US Fisheries Management US fisheries management has begun to accomplish something that few other countries have done; it has increased abundance and yield of an overexploited, overcapitalized fishery, i.e. the New England groundfish fishery. However, this progress has been slow, and was largely forced through court action. There are continuing legal fights to improve the management in many US fisheries. On the west coast there is still management by trip limits for the groundfish fishery, which often forces fishers to discard large amounts of valuable fish in order to stay within the regulations. That is, there are regulations that effectively force fishers to act in a dishonest manner in order to keep fishing. In other fisheries there has been little progress, in spite of strong scientific evidence that management actions need to be taken. For example, it is very clear that the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery could produce much more yield, but little effective action has been taken. In many cases, there is strong, short-term pressure to stabilize fish populations at low biomass levels (often as low as 10% of the unexploited levels), rather than to take the necessary management actions to initiate population recovery. Perhaps the single most useful change in fisheries management would be a rethinking of the way scientific advice informs management decisions. Under the present system, careful scientific analysis that clearly will result in improved fisheries yields in the long term is not acted upon by the regional councils. Further improvements in fisheries management require that managers act upon the results of careful scientific analyses. Currently, scientific advice is often ignored by regional fisheries management councils for short term political objectives. One problem of the current system is that uncertainty in the status of fish stocks can result in risk-prone management strategies, rather than risk-averse strategies. For example, in eastern Canada, fishing continued on cod stocks to the point where a resource that had employed tens of thousands of fishers, and produced a vibrant culture for centuries has now been declared Endangered by the Canadian government. On the issue of the great disaster of the Canadian cod, I speak as a scientist whose scientific advice was ignored time after time. For political reasons, fishing continued until one of the world’s great biological resources, the Grand Banks cod, was almost eliminated. The setting of scientific advice for fisheries management cannot be allowed to become a political football if long term benefits of a fishery are to be realized. The US and International Fisheries There are two areas of marine environmental policy where the US is among the leaders of the world: protection of endangered species and protection of marine habitat. This leadership could be extended to the international arena by three actions: 1. Require protection of all species from extinction by international fisheries management agencies. In particular, sharks worldwide, and leatherback turtles in the Pacific, require changes in law for long term survival. 2. The success of groundfish fisheries management in Alaska (based around protection of Pacific halibut) should be extended to other multispecies fisheries. Adoption of this management approach in the Northwest Atlantic could lead to efforts to recover the once great Atlantic halibut resource, which would force changes in the international management system that would benefit all groundfish species. 3. Require protection of critical marine habitat. As an example, unique seamounts are being destroyed for short term economic gain. There should be a worldwide ban of destructive fishing on all seamounts, especially those in international waters.
Ms. Lisa Speer
My name is Lisa Speer. I am Senior Policy Analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a national conservation organization dedicated to protecting natural resources and public health. We appreciate the opportunity to testify on the U.S. role in international fisheries management. My work over the last 20 years at NRDC has focused on ocean and coastal resource conservation, both here and abroad. I have had the honor of serving on the U.S. delegation to a number of major international fisheries negotiations, including the UN Conference on Straddling Stocks and Highly Migratory Species, as well as negotiations to implement the resulting treaty in the North Atlantic and the Western Pacific. NRDC has been active in issues debated at the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and other international institutions that address fisheries issues. Here at home, NRDC has been extensively involved in regional fisheries management issues in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Pacific, swordfish and other highly migratory species in Atlantic, and overall implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act at the national level. Most recently, the President of NRDC, John Adams, served on the Pew Oceans Commission, which issued its report and recommendations last week. I would like first to thank the Committee for holding this hearing. Coming on the heels of Dr. Myers’ report in Nature last month, the report of the Pew Commission last week, the Defying Oceans End conference in Cabo San Lucas earlier this month and the conclusion of the 4th UN Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on on Oceans and the Law of the Sea last Friday, the timing could not be more propitious. Overview of international fisheries Recent reports and events highlight the fact that we are rapidly reaching, and in many cases have exceeded, the limits of ocean ecosystems and the fisheries they support. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), seventy-five percent of the world’s marine fish populations are fully fished, overfished, or depleted. Sea turtles, marine mammals and seabirds are threatened by incidental catch in fishing gear, as are many species of commercial and non-commercially important fish. More than 2 billion pounds of bycatch – roughly 25% of the world’s total catch – is discarded dead, the collateral damage of fishing. Destructive fishing practices such as dredges and bottom trawls damage the habitat on which marine life, including important commercial fish species, depend. Overcapacity and subsidies continue to propel short term overexploitation at the expense of long term sustainability. The depletion of the seas has enormous implications for the human environment as well as the natural one. Globally, marine fisheries employ roughly 20 million people worldwide, many from developing countries where fishing provides a critical source of income as well as food. Here in our own back yard, depletion of cod off Atlantic Canada has cost more than 40,000 people their jobs and has devastated coastal fishing communities throughout the Atlantic provinces. The experience around the globe is mirrored here at home, where well over a third of federally managed assessed fish stocks are either overfished or are being fished unsustainably, or both. Rampant overfishing in New England, the Pacific and elsewhere has resulted in dramatic declines in key fish stocks, resulting in the loss of jobs and painful readjustments in many fishing communities. Increasing pressure on deep sea fisheries Faced with declining stocks in nearshore coastal waters, fishermen are venturing farther out into previously untouched areas of the deep sea, home to exceptionally vulnerable species and habitats, with unknown consequences. According to FAO, the catch of oceanic species typically found on the high seas has tripled since the mid-1970s. The rapid increase in fishing pressure on seamounts and other deep water areas is of particular concern. Seamounts are submarine mountains and hills that can rise 1000 meters or more from the ocean floor. They are distributed throughout the world’s oceans. Recent research indicates that seamounts are centers of biodiversity that frequently exhibit a very high degree of endemism. According to the U.N., the total number of species endemic to deep-sea seamounts may range from tens of thousands or more, thus potentially making these ecosystems the most prolific and diverse on the planet. Along with deep coral formations and other deep water features, seamounts typically support slow-growing, long-living animals, which can take hundreds or even thousands of years to develop and are exceedingly vulnerable to disturbance. Very little about the distribution, abundance and dynamics of these features and the species that inhabit them is known. Bottom trawl fishing poses the greatest danger to seamount ecosystems due to the impact of the gear on bottom habitat. Advancing technology now allows fishing vessels to easily locate and fish in previously inaccessible deep-sea areas, including seamounts, banks and canyons, which harbor long-lived deep sea fish such as orange roughy. Trawling for these fish can destroy deep water coral and other complex benthic communities, reducing thriving bottom complexes to rubble in short order. The role of the United States in addressing international fisheries The United States has played a key role in promoting reform of international fisheries management over the years. To cite but a few examples, US leadership was essential to securing the 1991 UN moratorium on large scale driftnets on the high seas, the groundbreaking, legally binding conservation provisions of the UN Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and the FAO International Plan of Action (IPOA) on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. US leadership was essential in securing agreement at ICCAT to adopt a recovery plan for North Atlantic swordfish, which have made a remarkable comeback, and in securing agreement on multilateral trade measures to help enforce ICCAT rules. These and other efforts have served to greatly enhance international fisheries conservation and management. But much more needs to be done. The magnitude of the problem here in the US and around the world calls for a major initiative to chart a new course for fisheries. As a major fishing nation, and one of the world’s largest consumers of seafood, the US is in an important position to lead such an effort. Elements of this initiative should include the following. 1) The US should lead by example. At 4.5 million square miles, our EEZ is bigger than the nation’s land area and is the largest in the world. If we are to assert leadership globally, we need to ensure that domestic fisheries are managed responsibly and sustainably. Despite important progress, we remain far short of this goal. More than one third of assessed fish stocks are either overfished, being fished unsustainably, or both according to NMFS, and some are approaching extinction, including several species of snapper, grouper, and Pacific rockfish. The Pew Oceans Commission report outlines important steps we can take here at home to overhaul domestic fisheries management. These include: a. Replace the existing, fragmented jumble of ocean laws and programs with a unified national ocean policy based on the doctrine of public trust, with clear and coordinated goals, objectives and standards based on protecting ecosystem health and requiring sustainable use of ocean resources. b. Overhaul federal marine fisheries management by separating conservation and allocation decisions, restricting fishing gear that is destructive to marine habitats, and implementing ecosystem based planning and zoning. c. Establish a system of fully protected marine reserves. The Pew Commission report contains many other critically important recommendations for improving fisheries management in the United States. I would like to submit the report for the record. 1) Pursue an immediate moratorium on high seas bottom trawling on seamounts, deep coral reefs and other sensitive areas. Such a moratorium should apply until deep water corals, seamounts and other biodiversity hotspots on the high seas can be identified and measures to protect them adopted. In most high seas regions, there are virtually no controls on bottom trawling, and there is great concern that many species are being lost to trawling before they can even be identified. Bottom trawling should be suspended in sensitive areas of the high seas until these features can be mapped, assessed and protected. 2) Continue to play a leadership role in implementing the FAO Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. The United States has been a leader in promoting international cooperation to deter IUU fishing. Continued progress on this front is essential if the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) goal of restoring depleted stocks to healthy levels worldwide by 2015 is to be met. Domestic legislation enabling the US to restrict imports of certain fish caught in a manner that is not consistent with international agreements governing fishing and protection of the marine environment has been introduced in the Committee, and we believe this approach holds promise for addressing the problem of IUU fishing. We would welcome the opportunity to work with the Committee on this type of legislation. 3) Promote the prompt implementation of the FAO International Plan of Action on Management of Fishing Capacity. Most importantly, that portion of the $13 billion/year of officially reported fishing subsidies (likely an underestimate) that contributes to overcapacity and overfishing must be addressed. In addition to ongoing discussions of the issue at the WTO, the upcoming 2004 FAO technical consultation on subsidies in the fisheries sector and how they affect overcapacity, overfishing and IUU fishing, provides a potential opportunity to make progress on this issue. In closing, we again commend the Committee for holding this hearing, and urge your continued involvement and interest in this critical environmental issue. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.