- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2006


President Bush called for a halt to all types of destructive fishing on the high seas yesterday, saying the United States will work to eliminate practices such as bottom trawling that devastate fish populations and the ocean floor.

Mr. Bush’s memo directs the secretaries of the State and Commerce departments to promote “sustainable” fisheries and to oppose any fishing practices “that destroy the long-term natural productivity of fish stocks or habitats such as seamounts, corals and sponge fields for short-term gain.”

Mr. Bush also said the United States would work with other nations and international groups to change fishing practices and create new international fishery regulatory groups if needed.

On the high seas, where the vast marine life gets little protection, hundreds of boats practice bottom trawling: They drag huge nets along the sea floor to scoop up orange roughy, blue ling and other fish; they also bulldoze nearly everything else in their path.

“It’s like clear-cutting the forest to catch a squirrel,” said Joshua Reichert, head of the private Pew Charitable Trusts’ environment program, which has been leading an international coalition of more than 60 conservation groups seeking to halt the practice on the high seas.

This week, the groups and some U.S. senators hope to persuade the United Nations to ban bottom trawling anywhere that it’s not regulated. U.N. negotiations over high seas fishing start today in New York.

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