SEATTLE - August 18 - In the darkest traditions of backroom lawmaking, Washington State is replacing Washington, DC as the home of shady deal-making. Tomorrow, Senator Slade Gorton's office is hosting a strategy session for managing the nation's largest fishery in the North Pacific. His guest list is composed primarily of top executives from the factory trawler industry. Gorton is trying to quietly placate factory trawler interests in his backyard, forsaking other fisheries which remain vulnerable to the return of these vessels.
Greenpeace Fisheries Legislative Director Gerry Leape called the meeting a deliberate attempt to subvert the established legislative process for developing national policy.
"This is a textbook example of the fox guarding the hen house," said Leape. "It is ludicrous to expect the same corporations which have mined the seas to the point of collapse to plan for a sustainable future."
Just two years after their failure to gain Congressional endorsement to privatize the billion-dollar pollock fishery in the North Pacific, the factory trawlers are now proposing a backdoor route to the same result -- the right to amass, buy, and sell fishing quotas among themselves.
The proposal is the factory trawler industryís counter offer to S. 1221, The American Fisheries Act, introduced earlier this year by Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. In its original form, the bill would have eventually phased out factory trawlers from US waters, prompting intense pressure from the Seattle-based factory trawler fleet on Sen. Gorton to water down the billís most effective components.
Greenpeace is currently conducting a summer-long bus tour, educating the thousands of Americans who have come to greet the bus on the dangers of factory trawling, both to the environment and the economy. Factory trawlers have nets as long as four football fields that can catch millions of pounds of fish in a single day -- much faster than nature can replace them. These giant vessels waste hundreds of millions of pounds of unwanted "bycatch" each year. They are destroying the marine food chain, driving the decline of other marine species, and depriving America's small-scale fishing communities of their livelihoods.