Piscatorial duels

Published: Tuesday 15 August 1995

SPARKS are flying as yet anotber fish war gains momentum in the Pacific Ocean; the protagonists this time are Canada and Alaska. Canada's feisty fisheries minister, Brian Tobin, has taken strong offence to Alaska's refusal to fall in line with Canadian proposals for conserving dwindling stocks of the Pacific salmon.

"It's apparent that the us administration is a hostage to the narrow regional interests of the state of Alaska," says Tobin, who has emerged as a fierce crusader against indiscriminate fishing off the coast of Canada. At the Centre of the storm is a breakdown in negotiations between the us and Canada over the 1985 treaty which divides fish catches.

Though Canada - supported by Oregon, Washington and the us federal government - insists on a sharp reduction of the catch to conserve endangerec species, Alaska has fishier ambitions This year it has allowed its vessels To catch 230,000 Chinook salmon compared to the 160,000 recommended by Canadian scientists. "A frenzy of greed' is how Tobin describes the depredations of the Alaskan fishermen.

On its part, Canada plans to close some areas to fishing, reduce its catches and limit harvesting of certain species. It is also considering a heavy transit fee. similar to one imposed last year, on trawlers passing through Canadian waters around Vancouver Island to and from the Alaskan fishing grounds.

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