Japan Lobbies To Defeat Bills Calling For End To Drift-Net Fishing

In the face of overwhelming international opposition and new Congressional action to force a ban on drift-net fishing in 1992, Japan's fishing industry began an uphill battle recently to preserve drift-net fishing on the high seas.

A spokesman for the Japanese Fisheries Association, Alan Macnow, blamed environmental extremists for distorting the actual impact of drift nets, which can be 40 miles in length and which have been banned by most countries for indiscriminately killing fish, mammals and birds.

Two bills before Congress would force the U.S. to impose broad trade sanctions against countries that do not abide by the United Nations deadline calling for an end to deepsea drift-net fishing by July 1 of next year. President Bush, under existing law, has the option of imposing narrower sanctions on that country's exports of fish and other sea products. According to Mr. Macnow, an international scientific study released in June shows that drift-net fishing is not threatening dolphins in the North Pacific and is no more wasteful than other fishing methods. To defeat the two bills, he said the fisheries association, which is partly funded by the Japanese Government, would use these results to lobby Congress and the Bush Administration. The new study found, Mr.

Macnow said, that 28 percent of the catch hauled in by Japan's driftnet fishing of squid and tuna was by-catch, other species that die in the nets and are dumped back in the ocean. This compares with 35 percent for conventional trawling and better than 90 percent for shrimp fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, he said.

But a Bush Administration official said the fisheries association was distorting the results of the international study, and that the report reinforced the conclusion that drift-net fishing was wasteful and harmed mammals and other sea life. The U.N. ban on drift-net fishing is backed by the Bush Administration, although it is expected to oppose the two bills, which mandate retaliation if drift-net fishing continues. Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon sponsored one of the bills, which was passed unanimously by the Senate earlier this year, and Representative Gerry Studds of Massachusetts introduced the other bill recently in the House.

However, it was made clear by Mr. Macnow that Japan's drift-net fleet of about 360 boats did not intend to stop drift-net fishing by July, but would try to develop conservation measures to satisfy strict U.N. guidelines as an alternative to the ban.

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