U.S. Administration Called on in Fight to Save Antarctic Wildlife from Spanish Poachers
WASHINGTON (Sept. 12) – Humane Society International and the World Wildlife Fund have petitioned the United States Government to certify and sanction Spain for undermining the international convention that protects Antarctic wildlife by failing to stem illegal fishing activity by Spanish nationals in the Southern Ocean. The illegal fishing is decimating albatross and petrel populations, the world’s most endangered group of birds.
The birds drown as a result of entanglement with the baited hooks on the lethal longline fishing boats involved in poaching Patagonian toothfish, widely known as Chilean sea bass, a highly overfished species. The United States is a major toothfish importer and has taken tough measures to restrict toothfish imports from the illegal poachers.
“In their greed to profit from the Chilean sea bass black market, the poachers, and ultimately Spain, are flouting all conservation measures and causing the deaths of thousands of critically endangered seabirds not to mention putting the Patagonian toothfish on the fast track to an endangered listing,” said Nicola Beynon, HSI Wildlife and Habitat Program Manager. “Humane Society International and World Wildlife Fund urge the United States to stand firm against such outrageous activity and sanction Spain now for allowing the devastating death toll on endangered populations to go unchecked.”
The petition, sent late last week to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez, asks the president to certify and sanction Spain under the Pelly Amendment to the United States Fishermen’s Protective Act, 1978, for allowing fishing activities that undermine the effectiveness of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The CCAMLR convention was established in 1980 to protect the wildlife of Antarctica, to which both the United States and Spain are parties. CCAMLR regulates a legal fishing industry for Chilean sea bass and requires strict conservation measures to protect seabirds.
The petition asks that the United States maintain sanctions until Spain has taken the necessary steps to permanently prevent the involvement of their nationals in illegal poaching of Chilean sea bass.
The CCAMLR website reported the following as of Aug. 28, 2006: “The high incidence of IUU [illegal, unreported and unregulated] fishing has not only had a detrimental effect on toothfish stocks, particularly in the Indian Ocean, it has impacted heavily on seabird populations to the extent that the future sustainability of both groups has been called into question. The continued lack of information from IUU fisheries undermines CCAMLR's conservation measures and severely complicates efforts to determine future toothfish stock trends in certain areas with any level of certainty.”
The United States has successfully invoked the Pelly Amendment to help conserve whales, marine turtles and rhinoceros.
A copy of the petition is available on request.