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Public Papers - 1991 - October

Message to the Congress Deferring Sanctions Under the Pelagic Driftnet Agreement


To the Congress of the United States:

The conservation of high seas living marine resources and averting threats to such resources have become important international issues in recent years. Much of the concern has focused on the use of the large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing method. The United States has worked with several high seas driftnet fishing countries to assess the impacts that these methods have upon the marine environment through cooperative high seas monitoring programs. The data collected in these programs has substantiated concerns about the destructive nature of this wasteful fishing technique.

The international community recognizes the problems posed by large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing on the high seas. In December 1989, the United States cosponsored Resolution 44/225 that was adopted by consensus by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), as was reaffirmation Resolution 45/197 a year later. UNGA Resolution 44/225 calls for an end to the use of large-scale pelagic driftnets on the high seas by June 30, 1992, unless jointly agreed conservation and management regimes can be put in place to prevent the unacceptable impacts posed by this fishing method on the marine environment. The scientific data show the indiscriminate nature of this fishing technique. Thus, I fully expect that all those involved in large-scale pelagic driftnet fisheries will make plans to end such fishing by June 30, 1992. Accordingly, I have instructed Secretary Baker to seek such commitments from driftnet fishing countries.

Pursuant to the provisions of subsection (b) of the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen's Protective Act of 1967, as amended (22 U.S.C. 1978), I am reporting to you following certification by the Secretary of Commerce on August 13, 1991, that the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Taiwan violated the terms of the cooperative scientific monitoring and enforcement agreements the United States has with the ROK and Taiwan. The Secretary's letter to me was deemed to be a certification for the purposes of subsection (a) of the Pelly Amendment. Subsection (a) requires that I consider and, at my discretion, order the prohibition of imports into the United States of fish products from the ROK and Taiwan, to the extent that such prohibition is sanctioned by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Since certification, both the ROK and Taiwan have responded to U.S. concerns in some measure. The ROK has recalled to port all the Korean driftnet vessels that were detected by U.S. enforcement patrols beyond the high seas driftnet fishing boundaries, instructed its commercial and enforcement vessels to adhere to the ROK regulations enacted pursuant to the U.S.-ROK driftnet agreement, and imposed penalties on masters and owners of 14 violating vessels. Since the ROK certification, Korean driftnet vessels appear to have operated in accordance with the boundary provisions of the U.S.-ROK driftnet agreement; however, as of October 5, seven Korean driftnet vessels had failed to return to port in compliance with the ROK recall notice. The Government of the ROK has expressed its regret for the violations and has assured the United States that it will do its utmost to ensure that its vessels adhere to all relevant enforcement provisions outlined in the U.S.-ROK driftnet agreement.

Taiwan has yet to take remedial and punitive measures with respect to its driftnet vessels found operating outside of the prescribed high seas fishing area in the North Pacific. The authorities on Taiwan, however, have noted that the vessels in question have been boarded and investigated on the high seas by Taiwan patrol vessels and that punitive actions would be contemplated at the close of the current fishing season when the fishing vessels return to their home ports.

Taiwan has responded to the general concern of the international community by positively addressing the fundamental objective of ending large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing on the high seas by June 30, 1992, as called for by UNGA Resolution 44/225. On September 13, 1991, our representatives received a letter from the authorities on Taiwan that stated that the Executive Yuan reiterated a government policy to end the use of this fishing method by June 30, 1992. We place great reliance on the authorities on Taiwan to implement this policy in a forthright and timely manner.

I have decided to defer sanctions against Taiwan and Korea for 90 days pending evaluation of any additional remedial and punitive measures that each may take regarding the 1991 violations for which it was certified and their adherence to the driftnet agreements.

Over the longer term, I will watch closely their commitment to end large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing on the high seas by June 30, 1992, in line with the desire of the international community to end such fishing by that date.

Certification of Korea or Taiwan will be continued pending review of their performance. I have directed Secretary Mosbacher, in cooperation with Secretary Baker, to continue to monitor developments relating to large-scale pelagic driftnetting conducted on the high seas by the ROK and Taiwan and to report to me in 90 days or as otherwise warranted.

George Bush

The White House,

October 18, 1991.

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