US Targets Destructive Ocean-Fishing Practices
US officials said they also hoped to work with other countries to protect fish stocks and their habitats, an action applauded by environmental groups that have long criticized bottom trawling because it can destroy fragile coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.
"We are delighted that the Bush Administration will seek to stop unregulated high seas bottom trawling," said Lisa Speer, Director of the Water and Oceans Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Unregulated bottom trawling is the singlemost destructive fishing practice on the high seas, and it needs to be stopped."
President George W. Bush put Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in charge of the US effort, announced in advance of expected proposals before the United Nations that could be debated as early as this week.
"Specifically, the (State Department) is directed to work with Regional Fishery Management Organizations and other cooperative arrangements to establish rules based on sound science to enhance sustainable fishing practices and to end destructive fishing practices, such as unregulated bottom trawling, explosives and chemicals that destroy the long-term productivity of ecosystems such as seamounts, corals, and sponge fields," the White House statement said.
Bush also urged Congress to update legislation known as the Magnuson-Stevens Fish Management Act that aims to rebuild depleted fisheries, but declined to provide specifics on what a new law should look like.
The Senate passed its version of the bill on June 19. The House agreed on more modest legislation last week that covered international activities but not domestic programs.