FISHERMEN: INTERNATIONAL TREATY IS A BUM DEAL

November 15, 2000 12:00 am

Brookings fishermen like Paul Harman are concerned about the impact a United Nations multinational fisheries agreement may have on local fishermen.

The Western Pacific Treaty Convention was spawned by the United Nations Straddling Stocks and Highly Migratory Species Treaty, which has already been ratified by the U.S. Congress.

If ratified by the U.S. Senate, will affect my business and life, said Harman, a member of the Western Fishboat Owners Association (WFOA).

Our fishing, with trolling hook and line, is one of the most conservative fisheries, and were facing a lot of threats, he said.

He even questions the name of the ratified treaty.

What is straddling stocks, he asked, adding that he was unable to find a definition in any dictionary, but he knows the treaty affects the albacore tuna for which he fishes.

Harman attended a meeting of the fishboat association earlier this month in Laughlin, Nev., where the anticipated threat to the fishery was discussed in detail by the groups San Diego attorney, Peter Flournoy.

Were trying, Harman said about the groups efforts to combat the UN control of the industry.

Anybody in the fishing industry can be affected, he said. Theres more of this coming down, talk of habitat zones off of Oregon. Crabbing may be threatened as well.

The draft text of the agreement read: the Western and Central Pacific Convention will create permanent commission made up of one voting member from each participating nation as well as three separate advisory committees (Scientific, Compliance and Northern Pacific Committees).

The commission will design and implement comprehensive fisheries conservation management and enforcement systems for the high seas tuna fisheries, and also help to ensure adoption of compatible conservation programs within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) that are under the jurisdiction of various Pacific island and coastal nations.

Those conservation measures may include, closures, gear and technology restrictions, bycatch control regulations, total allowable catch limits, or fishing effort controls.

Vessels within the convention may be required to carry Vessel Monitoring Systems satellite tracking units and participate in observer programs.

Participating nations may be required to share harvest and other data including lists of all vessels flying their flag. Each nation will be required to cooperate, administer allocations to its fleet, and implement the programs within its national waters.

It is filled with untried concepts and principles that are sure to raise costs to exaggerated, even intolerable, levels, was a comment from William T. Burke.

Burke is a professor emeritus at University of Washington, who has been involved in the negotiations.

In a telephone conversation, Burke, who served as consultant to the Japanese representatives at a fishboat association meeting in Hawaii in September, said the agreement as drafted is extremely complicated and enforcement is suspect.

In all my years I have never seen a proposed fisheries conservation convention as complicated and unworkable as this.

Harman said that the Japanese, who account for 80 percent of the harvest of the migratory stock, stated they will ignore any new regulations from this convention.

He added, China, France, and Tonga abstained form the talks and the agreement. How can you have a treaty if the major players walk out. How can you enforce this treaty if nations like Japan ignore it.

Harman asks if the U.S. should abrogate this government to bodies of unelected foreign people at the United Nations, World Bank, World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund.

Mike Griffith, another Brookings boat owner and tuna fisherman, also expressed many of the same concerns about the proposed regulations and the adverse effect it can have on the Oregon tuna fishery. Harman insisted the U.S. fishing industry will be endangered by yet another agreement lacking enforcement.

He gave as an example of lack of enforcement this years albacore season when 100s of Canadian vessels moved down from Canada and fished along the coast from Coos Bay to Westport Washington crating many treaty violations.

So far, nothing has been done to enforce the 1981 treaty between Canada and the U.S., which was violated by the Canadian vessels.

Harman questioned how we can possibly enforce the newer mammoth, complicated proposal if we cant enforce the simple four-page Canadian treaty,

I think were going to try to fight it, Harman said. I dont see how a treaty like this can be enforced when Japan refuses to sign.