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Bush Seeks Ban on Destructive Fishing

Stevens and Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, tried to get the Senate to toughen up the U.S. stance, but they couldn't muster sufficient support for it last week. Along with conservation groups, they want the U.N. to create regional fisheries management organizations to impose restrictions in the Pacific, Indian and Central Atlantic and Southwest Atlantic oceans.

"The United Nations must put an end to unregulated fishing practices on the high seas and call on nations to stop their vessels from conducting illegal, unreported, and unregulated high-seas bottom trawling, until measures to regulate this practice are adopted," Stevens said Tuesday.

Reichert and groups such as Greenpeace, Conservation International and the Natural Resources Defense Council have waged a two-year global campaign costing an estimated $5 million lobbying for action by the U.N. this fall.

"We're not saying no bottom trawling ever. We're saying unregulated bottom trawling ought not to occur," said Lisa Speer, a New York-based senior policy analyst at NRDC.

The National Academy of Sciences said in a 2002 report that bottom trawling can wipe creatures and seafloor habitats, particularly gravelly, muddy spots. "Many experimental studies have documented the acute, gear-specific effects of trawling and dredging on various types of habitat," it said.

The report recommended doing less such fishing, changing the gear and closing off some areas to fishing.

The fishing industry fears a "potential spillover effect" of any high-seas ban into U.S. waters, said Stacey Viera, a spokeswoman for the National Fisheries Institute, representing the $29 billion-a-year seafood industry.

"If we call bottom trawling an activity that should not be done in the high seas, then why would it be done anywhere else? That's the concern here," she said. "Don't demonize one type of fishing gear."

Viera said the industry would support limited closures in places where the United States worked closely with other nations to identify sensitive marine ecosystems.

That would be impossible, said marine biologist Sylvia Earle, who recently helped persuade Bush to protect the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Earle, an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, said bottom trawling is unquestionably destructive, like "bulldozers that go in the sea."

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On the Net:

Deep Sea Conservation Coalition: http://www.savethehighseas.org

National Fisheries Institute: http://www.aboutseafood.com


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© 2006 The Associated Press