In an effort to curtail the effects of driftnet fishing on U.S. marine resources, the Driftnet Impact Monitoring, Assessment, and Control Act of 1987 (16 U.S.C. 1822 note; Title IV of Pub. L. 100-220, as amended) authorized the Secretary of Commerce to enter into agreements with foreign nations. These agreements focus on monitoring, assessing, and reducing the adverse impacts of driftnets on marine fishery resources.
The Secretary of Commerce negotiates, through the Secretary of State, with the governments of foreign nations permitting driftnet fishing that results in the taking of U.S. marine resources (e.g., anadromous salmon) in waters of the North Pacific Ocean outside of the Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or territorial sea of any nation. The intent of these negotiations is to enter into agreements providing for reliable monitoring and assessment of the U.S. marine resources which are killed and retrieved, discarded, or lost by driftnet fishing vessels of foreign governments. These negotiations are intended to allow entering into agreements for the enforcement of laws and regulations, applicable to the location, season, and other aspects of the operation of the foreign nation's driftnet fishing vessels. The Secretary of Commerce provides to the U.S. Congress as deemed necessary a report outlining the nature, extent, and effects of this driftnet fishing. Under this authority, agreements were negotiated with Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Taiwan.
The Driftnet Act Amendments of 1990 (§107 of Pub. L. 101-627) expanded upon this Act by directing the Secretary of Commerce, through the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard operates, to seek international agreements that require foreign driftnet vessels to be equipped with satellite transmitters, authorize U.S. officials to board and inspect foreign driftnets vessels for violations of the agreement, require reliable monitoring and documentation of all catches by foreign vessels, impose time and area restrictions on driftnet use to prevent interception of anadromous species, require driftnets be constructed of biodegradable materials, require driftnets to be clearly marked, and minimize the taking of non-target living resources. Furthermore, these amendments directed the Secretary of Commerce to certify under the Pelly Amendment any driftnet fishing nation failing to enter into or implement adequate monitoring and enforcement agreements with the United States.
Monies appropriated under the Act for FY94 were applied to the continuing surveillance of certain areas of the Pacific to detect any possible illegal driftnet fishing activity. Surveillance activities included surface and air patrols by U.S. Coast Guard platforms, air patrols by the Canadian Maritime Forces, and continued development of the U.S. Navy's Sound Surveillance System for the detection of driftnet vessels. The non-binding United Nations General Assembly Resolution 46/215 banned large-scale high-seas driftnet fishing beginning in 1993, and has all but put an end to the use of this gear on the high seas. However, in June 1994, a single unidentified Asian driftnet vessel was sighted by an NMFS enforcement officer aboard a Canadian Maritime Forces aircraft.
- 2004 Report of the Secretary of Commerce to the Congress of the United States concerning U.S. actions taken on foreign large-scale high seas driftnet fishing
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Note:The first version of this article was drawn from material prepared for the Congressional Research Service by Eugene H. Buck