Scoop: August 28, 1998

The National Center For Public Policy Research has released a study that criticizes the environmental group Greenpeace for its support of the American Fisheries Act, a proposed congressional law that would ban factory fishing trawlers from the North Pacific and inflict significant harm on the environment.

Introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and in the House of Representatives by Congressman Jim Saxton (R-NJ), the American Fisheries Act is ostensibly supposed to help the environment by expelling 18 large factory trawlers from the North Pacific fishing grounds or fishery. Greenpeace asserts that the factory trawlers catch and waste an excessive amount of fish and threaten to dangerously deplete the fishery. Only by expelling these factory trawlers, the group claims, can the long-term health of America’s most productive fishery be insured.

However, the National Center paper, “The American Fisheries Act: Special Interest Politics at its Worst,” shows that Greenpeace’s arguments are entirely without merit. Far from posing a threat to the environment, the factory trawlers are actually the most environmentally clean of the fishing vessels that operate in the North Pacific. While most fishing boats in the area discard 15 percent of their catch, factory trawlers discard a mere 3 percent. Furthermore, federal inspectors are on board each of the 18 trawlers to enforce catch limits. The study concludes that banning the factory trawlers, as Greenpeace seeks, would make it more difficult for the government to enforce catch limits because thousands of smaller boats would take the place of the factory trawlers. Inspectors can not be placed on each of these vessels.

The National Center’s analysis also shows that, contrary to Greenpeace’s claims, the North Pacific fishery is not being overfished. Of the seven major fisheries around the United States, the North Pacific is the only one that doesn’t have an overfished species.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that the American Fisheries Act poses a threat to the environment, Greenpeace is waging a nationwide lobbying campaign on behalf of the legislation. This lobbying campaign entails the use of scare tactics that risks the lives of humans. On August 14, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Greenpeace activists in Lexington, Kentucky were charged with burglarizing a building in order to display a huge banner denouncing Long John Silver’s Restaurants Inc. for using fish caught by factory trawlers. By having its members rappel down the building and hang the banner, Greenpeace risked the lives of its own activists and also threatened the safety of innocent passersby.

“It is telling of Greenpeace’s skewed sense of priorities that they would risk peoples’ lives to further their political agenda,” said John Carlisle, Director of The National Center’s Environmental Policy Task Force and the author of the study. “It is even more ironic that Greenpeace is literally risking other people’s life and limb to push legislation that hurts the environment.”

The baseless environmental arguments made by Greenpeace are only one of the many flaws in the American Fisheries Act. The real motivation behind the legislation seemingly is the desire of Alaskan political interests, led by Senator Stevens, to destroy jobs in Washington State for the benefit of commercial competitors, including Alaskan fishing companies which stand to benefit the most from a ban on factory trawlers. The fact that banning the factory trawlers would cost American companies $500 million in shipping assets and destroy 1,500 much-needed jobs in the Seattle area is apparently of little concern to Senator Stevens and Greenpeace.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.