Glendening pursuing federal action on marlin

Governor joins petition against foreign operations


October 04, 2002|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Blaming European commercial fishermen for bringing white marlin to the brink of extinction, Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday called on the Bush administration to impose trade sanctions or other penalties on countries that ignore international fishing regulations.

"The time for action is now," said the governor, standing on City Dock in Annapolis. "Without help from the national government, Ocean City is going to lose its title of `White Marlin Capital of the World.' "

Maryland is home to the largest white marlin tournament in the world, attracting hundreds of anglers and thousands of tourists each August.

The U.S. commercial fleet is prohibited from catching white marlin, a highly migratory fish found only in the Atlantic. Recreational fishermen release 95 percent of their catches.

The bulk of the fish die as the byproduct of the lucrative foreign swordfish and tuna industry. Commercial boats cast long lines with thousands of hooks that stretch up to 80 miles in what critics call an "underwater minefield" for marlin.

The governor, joined by the World Wildlife Fund and the Audubon Society and the governors of New Jersey, South Carolina and Georgia, filed a petition under the 1967 Federal Fishermen's Protective Act.

It asks the federal government to analyze fishing data and identify countries in violation of international agreements. Based on those results, the Bush administration could take economic action or apply diplomatic pressure.

While Glendening acknowledged it could take the administration several years to react, he said timing is critical because the 29-member International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas holds its annual meeting in Spain at the end of the month.

The petitioners complain that the European Union - especially members Spain and Portugal - has run roughshod over quotas set by the ICCAT. For example, after the ICCAT recommended that the white marlin take be reduced, EU fishing fleets raised their take from 85 metric tons in 1999 to 193.2 metric tons in 2000.

"That's simply outrageous," Glendening said.

Pressure on the ICCAT is also coming from other arenas.

Congressman Wayne T. Gilchrest, an Eastern Shore Republican who chairs a House subcommittee on fishing, is expecting a vote by the full House next week on his resolution calling for trade sanctions.

A separate petition filed last month by the 80,000-member Recreational Fishing Alliance asks U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick to investigate the EU's Atlantic fishing practices.

Zoellick's deadline to respond to the petition is Oct. 25 - two days before the ICAAT meets.

"It's a nice 1-2 punch," said Herb Moore Jr., director of governmental affairs for the alliance, of the petitions. "It brings more awareness and adds leverage when our delegation goes to Spain. They'll know we mean business."

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