For Immediate Release:
April 26, 1999
Campaign Asks Chefs, Consumers to Continue Not Buying North Atlantic Swordfish Until International Summit in November, Where U.S. Leadership Crucial to Swordfish Recovery
WASHINGTON -- The "Give Swordfish A Break" campaign called today on consumers and chefs to continue not serving, buying or selling north Atlantic swordfish until the Clinton Administration follows through on its proposed international measures to restore this severely depleted population. The campaign emphasized that the key question for swordfish is now the Clinton Administration's commitment to securing international adoption of its proposals.
The National Marine Fisheries Service plan announced today -- covering highly-migratory species including swordfish, shark and marlin -- calls for significantly reducing the overall north Atlantic quota for swordfish. It would also count against that quota the young swordfish that are killed but discarded because they are below legal size limits. Both measures must be adopted by swordfish fishing nations at a November meeting in Rio de Janeiro if North Atlantic swordfish are to recover from what are now the lowest levels ever recorded.
"With the swordfish plan announced today, the Clinton Administration is only halfway to the finish line," said Give Swordfish a Break campaign co-director, Lisa Speer of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "Time is running out, and without strong Administration leadership over the next six months, swordfish will not recover within ten years as mandated by U.S. law."
The Give Swordfish a Break Campaign is directed by SeaWeb, a public education initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, and NRDC, a national environmental organization. Over the past 15 months, the campaign has enlisted the voices of more than 700 chefs who are working to raise awareness about the plight of north Atlantic swordfish, and to pressure the federal government to create a meaningful recovery plan. The campaign is asking participating chefs and consumers to not serve or purchase north Atlantic swordfish until a viable recovery plan is in place, which now is dependent on the outcome of the November Rio meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
Campaign leaders were discouraged by failure of the NMFS plan to close critical swordfish nursery areas off the coasts of South Carolina and Florida. Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. catch of north Atlantic Swordfish are too young to breed.
"By failing to close nursery areas, the Administration chose to postpone essential domestic action to protect swordfish," said Speer. "Their failure to act at the national level makes it absolutely critical that the U.S. achieve international agreement to restore swordfish within ten years at ICCAT in November. This is their last best chance."
Under the 1996 Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS must submit a plan that will ensure north Atlantic swordfish recovery in ten years. The average size of north Atlantic swordfish caught today is one-third of the size of fish caught 30 years ago.
"All along we have said that everyone must do their part to help swordfish recover," said campaign co-director Vikki Spruill, executive director of SeaWeb. "Hundreds of chefs and thousands of consumers continue to do their part by not eating, buying or selling north Atlantic swordfish. But the government has once again chosen to wait instead of act. Time is running out for north Atlantic swordfish. We will continue our campaign until a recovery plan is adopted to rebuild the population."
Chef Nora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora in Washington D.C. said she would continue to not serve swordfish, "This isn't over until a plan to restore swordfish is adopted. We're still a long way away from that reality".
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