MIME-version: 1.0
Posting-date: Fri, 20 Sep 1996 17:40 -0500 (CDT)
Priority: normal
Status: U

Thank you for your interest in the North Pacific fishery. We appreciate your giving us the opportunity to respond to misperceptions created by Greenpeace in their report, "Sinking Fast". Tyson foods is a big corporation; there's no denying that. However, we refute the Greenpeace modus operandi which assumes that big is always bad.

Contrary to what the Greenpeace management would have you believe, at Tyson Foods, we have a strong interest in the long-term health and sustainability of the North Pacific fishery. We've made a serious investment which simply cannot be recouped by plundering the resource.

It would be both undesirable and economically unfeasible for us to take our vessels elsewhere as Greenpeace has suggested we would.

Greenpeace tells us that fisheries are collapsing because of factory trawlers. But the fact is, when fisheries collapse, they do so because of poor management. In the North Atlantic fisheries referred to in their campaign literature, large and small-vessel fishermen refused until it was too late to submit to logical quota systems which limited the amount of fish caught. In addition, monitoring and enforcement were inadequate until after the resource was no longer sustainable. By contrast, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) has imposed and enforces a very responsible quota system. As a result, this fishery is one of the healthiest in the world, and there is absolutely no credible evidence to indicate groundfish stocks are being depleted.

The NPFMC follows strict scientific advice in setting annual harvest limits in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea fisheries. An acceptable biological catch limit (ABC), or biologically safe harvest limit, is established by the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee for each species of fish each year. The total harvest is generally established at about two-thirds of the total allowable biological catch limits, placing most species of North Pacific groundfish in the underutilized category.

All fishing vessels, large and small, catch some non-targeted species, or bycatch. The major difference is that large vessels carry federal fisheries observers who collect data and assist with compliance with fisheries regulations. Vessels under 60 feet in length are not required to carry observers. The North Pacific trawl fleet is one of the most closely monitored fleets in the world. If the trawl fleet is banned, it will in all likelihood be replaced by a larger fleet of unmonitored vessels.

Tyson has participated in and/or contributed financially to every available by-catch seminar and voluntary bycatch program since it acquired Arctic Alaska in 1992. We funded research to avoid salmon bycatch by participating in a voluntary assessment of $20 for each salmon incidentally caught in our trawl nets. We also have an agreement to retain and freeze those salmon for later donation to food banks. We use satellite equipment to provide timely data to our captains in order to avoid areas of high bycatch. Tyson was part of an industry-led effort to change the confidentiality regulations allowing the National Marine Fisheries Service to post vessel names and bycatch rates publicly to increase peer pressure on irresponsible operators.

Approximately two-thirds of the Tyson trawl fleet fishes primarily for pollock and Pacific whiting using mid-water nets which limit non-targeted species to less than two percent. Mid-water nets are designed not to come into contact with the bottom.

Greenpeace also made some preposterous allegations concerning the size of factory trawler nets, stating that up to a dozen 747 aircraft could fit into these nets. This is patently absurd. There isn't a vessel in the North Pacific fishery which uses nets like this and for Greenpeace to suggest so is nothing less than libelous.

Interestingly, Greenpeace has expressed wholesale opposition to a fisheries management tool which many scientists believe could be a very effective means to avoid bycatch and reduce discards. Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQ's) would change the current quota system, in which there is an open-access race for fish, with every vessel catching as much of the total allowable catch as they can until the quota is reached. Currently, fishermen are virtually forced to work in unsafe weather conditions to compete in this race, which actually penalizes operators, large and small, who try to avoid bycatch and reduce discards.

Many scientific groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund, have recognized the potential value of a quota-based management system utilizing tools such as ITQ's. However, because many of us fishing in the Pacific Northwest have also recognized their potential value, Greenpeace has taken an unyielding stance against them. This is evidence that Greenpeace is not as concerned about the practical effects of their actions as they are the emotional and political effects.

The Greenpeace report casts aspersions on the effects of the Magnuson Act, which created the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, listing among other things conflicts of interest on the Council. Tyson Seafoods has no direct representation on the Council and we have strenuously supported all efforts to create standards which prevent conflict of interest within its membership.

It should also be noted that by the time the Magnuson Act was implemented in 1976, the North Atlantic fisheries which Greenpeace cites as models of its failure, had already been mismanaged and overfished.

Contrary to what you have been told, at Tyson, we're concerned about our oceans. We want to be able to supply a hungry world with high-quality seafood for a long time. We also want our children and theirs to inherit a world which is as environmentally rich and diverse as ours. And that's why we will continue to fish in an environmentally responsible manner.

I hope I've addressed some of your concerns.


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Thank you,

The Tysonet Postmaster

Please feel free to send your comments to: Postmaster@tyson.com

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