NEW JERSEY JOINS OTHER ATLANTIC COAST STATES IN PETITION AGAINST EUROPEAN UNION FISHING PRACTICES
(2/96) TRENTON - Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has signed a petition on behalf of New Jersey, requesting U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans investigate the European Union's reporting of Atlantic bluefin tuna and white marlin catches. The petition, organized by Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening, accuses the European Commission (EC) and its member nations of failing to decrease their overall catch of blue marlin and bluefin tuna, as required by the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT).
"The McGreevey administration recognizes the vital significance of white marlin and bluefin tuna to New Jersey's recreational and commercial industries," said Commissioner Campbell. "Without immediate and decisive intervention by the federal government, the European Commission's actions may imperil the survival of these important fisheries."
The petition signed today falls under the 1971 Pelly Amendment, which requires the Commerce Secretary to investigate and to certify any actions by foreign nationals that might jeopardize the effectiveness of an international fishery conservation program.
If the Commerce Secretary certifies the European Commission nations are not properly reporting their white marlin and bluefin tuna catches, are overfishing either fishery, or are not following the minimum size requirements for bluefin tuna catches, then the Pelly Amendment authorizes the President to impose a ban on fish imports from those countries involved.
Under an agreement signed in 1997, ICCAT signatories were supposed to reduce their catches of white marlin by 25 percent. In 1999, a further reduction of 33 percent was called for. Instead, from 1996 to 2000, EC catches of white marlin increased by 79 metric tonnes.
Investigations by conservation groups suggest 51 percent of EC nations' bluefin tuna catch failed to meet ICCAT minimum size requirements. The petition signed today also suggests that EC nations consistently have failed to report their catches accurately.
ICCAT was developed to maintain the Atlantic populations of bluefin tuna and white marlin at levels that permit the maximum sustainable catches for commercial and recreational fisheries, without endangering the survival of the species.
"The limits set forth by the ICCAT agreements are crucial to maintaining viable fish populations," said Campbell. "Since American fishermen are following these agreements in good faith, we must ask for nothing less than for European Commission nations to honor these agreements."
Overall, conservation groups estimate white marlin are being fished at 15 percent above their maximum sustainable yield. The Western Atlantic bluefin tuna population is estimated to be only 19 percent of what is necessary to sustain the commercial fishery.
White marlin are a target species for sport fishermen along the Atlantic Coast. Much of the decline in the population is attributable to by-catch from other European fisheries. The National Marine Fisheries Service recently determined that although the white marlin population has declined significantly from its historical levels, it is not yet at a level warranting endangered species listing in American waters.
Atlantic bluefin tuna are an important commercial fishery for U.S. fishermen. Last year Americans landed over $20 million worth of bluefin tuna.