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Public Papers - 1992 - November

Statement on Signing the High Seas Driftnet Fisheries Enforcement Act

1992-11-02

Today I am signing into law H.R. 2152, the ``High Seas Driftnet Fisheries Enforcement Act.''

H.R. 2152 calls for a number of measures in support of United Nations General Assembly Resolutions 44/225, 45/197, and 46/215, which pertain to large-scale driftnet fishing and its impact on the living marine resources of the world's oceans and seas. The Act also calls for measures to address unregulated fishing in the area of the Central Bering Sea that is beyond the jurisdiction of the United States and the Russian Federation.

As a principal cosponsor of all three Resolutions, the United States has demonstrated strong leadership to address the problems of wastefulness and harm to the ecosystem caused by this fishing technique. I am grateful for the cooperation and support of many concerned countries that contributed to the successful adoption of the Resolutions. The United States has a particular interest in the effective implementation of the Resolutions because of the threat that driftnet fishing poses to living marine resources on the high seas.

It was appropriate that the United Nations General Assembly, by its Resolution 46/215, called upon all members of the international community to ensure that a global moratorium on all large-scale driftnet fishing is fully implemented by December 31, 1992. The Resolution is consistent with our treaty commitments under the Wellington Convention done on November 24, 1989.

Through this Act, the United States reinforces its commitment to cooperate with all concerned nations to ensure that the moratorium is implemented on time. The United States urges that all nations take appropriate measures to prohibit their nationals and fishing vessels flying their flags from undertaking any activities contrary to Resolution 46/215, and to impose appropriate penalties for such activities.

For its part, the United States has already taken steps, through the enactment of Public Law 101 - 627 on November 28, 1990, to prohibit any U.S. national from engaging in large-scale driftnet fishing in areas subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, as well as in areas beyond the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of any nation.

With respect to problems posed by unregulated fishing in the Central Bering Sea, the United States is pleased with the success achieved with other concerned countries, including the Russian Federation, in securing an agreement voluntarily to suspend fishing in the area during 1993 and 1994. The Administration intends to continue actively to pursue a longer term conservation and management regime for this area.

Contrary to long-standing Administration policy, this Act unfortunately requires the Government to charge access fees for maritime freight rate information that exceed the cost of disseminating the information. It also imposes fees on private sector resale of Government information. These provisions impede the flow of public information from the Government. They run counter to Federal information policy and the traditions of the Copyright Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

Some provisions of the Act could be construed to encroach upon the President's authority under the Constitution to conduct foreign relations, including the unfettered conduct of negotiations with foreign nations. To avoid constitutional questions that might otherwise arise, I will construe all of these provisions to be advisory, not mandatory. With respect to section 203, which states the ``sense of the Congress'' concerning trade negotiations, I note that my Administration has taken the initiative in bringing environmental issues into our overall trade agenda.

Finally, I note that section 101 of the bill will be interpreted in accord with the recognized principles of international law. Those principles recognize the right of innocent passage of ships of all states through the territorial sea, a right that shall not be hampered.

George Bush

The White House,

November 2, 1992.

Note: H.R. 2152, approved November 2, was assigned Public Law No. 102 - 582.

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