SeaWeb and NRDC Declare Victory
for North Atlantic Swordfish
Washington, August 1 -- The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and
SeaWeb today applauded groundbreaking action by the federal government to
protect juvenile north Atlantic swordfish, one of the two principal goals
of the Give Swordfish a Break Campaign. "The government's decision to
close swordfish nursery areas to fishing is an major victory for
swordfish," said Lisa Speer, Senior Policy Analyst with NRDC. "Coupled
with the adoption of an international recovery plan last November for
swordfish -- the other major goal of the campaign -- this decision will
set north Atlantic swordfish firmly on the road to recovery," said Speer.
Vikki Spruill, Executive Director of SeaWeb added that the government1s
action "is also victory for the thousands of chefs, restaurants, grocery
chains and consumers who answered the call to "give swordfish a break."
The rule closes, on a seasonal basis, 132,670 square miles of ocean to
Atlantic pelagic longline fishermen. It is expected to result in a
reduction of juvenile swordfish discards of between 31% and 42%.
SeaWeb and NRDC said they would end their formal campaign to urge chefs,
consumers and others to avoid north Atlantic swordfish. "It's now a
personal choice," said Spruill.
In deciding whether or not to eat swordfish, the groups suggested that
consumers consider the fact that while recovery measures are now in place
for north Atlantic swordfish, the population is still depleted. "Full
recovery will depend on prompt and effective implementation, monitoring
and enforcement of both the international recovery plan for swordfish
adopted in November, 1999 and the nursery area closures announced this
week," said Speer.
There are other problems associated with longline gear used to catch
swordfish in the Atlantic that remain to be addressed, the groups added.
Longline gear is non-selective and catches and kills large numbers of sea
turtles, sharks, billfish and other marine wildlife. The government
currently is considering ways to reduce the unintended catching and
killing of endangered sea turtles, but needs to address the impact of the
longline fishery on the broader ecosystem.
In bringing the formal campaign to a close, NRDC and SeaWeb noted that
while problems remain, the action taken by the government nevertheless
represents an unprecedented and enormous step forward for the
conservation and recovery of north Atlantic swordfish -- one that would
not have happened without the Give Swordfish a Break campaign. The groups
congratulated the numerous chefs and others whose participation in the
campaign was crucial to its success. "This is really a victory for those
thousands of individuals out there who participated in the campaign,"
said Spruill. "Your voices were heard, in restaurants, grocery stores,
and the halls of power in Washington."
Give Swordfish a Break was the first large effort to mobilize consumers
in support of fish conservation. The magnitude and effect of the
campaign grew over the past two years from its initial launch in January
1998 with the support of 27 prominent chefs. Over the course of the
campaign, more than 700 chefs signed the Give Swordfish a Break pledge,
while others -- the Peabody Hotel chain, cruise lines, grocery stores,
airlines, and uncounted others -- agreed to remove north Atlantic
swordfish from their menus and dining choices. "We are incredibly proud
of having begun this discussion on sustainable seafood," said Spruill.
"We hope consumers will continue asking questions about the environmental
impacts of their seafood choices."