Foreign Policy News Stories
Industrial Fishing Fleets Waste 60 Billion
Pounds of Fish Annually
"THE CRY OF THE OCEAN"
by Peter Steinhart
"BATTLE FOR THE DEEP"
by Hal Bernton
Mother Jones, July/August 1994
THE CRY OF THE OCEAN
"Unlike rhinos, tigers and bears,
when you deplete fish populations, you're threatening the survival
Life on earth began in the moonpull and
seawind of the oceans. Human blood still has the salinity of seawater.
We are, ourselves, miniature oceans, dressed in skin and gone
exploring the arid world that rose out of ancient seas.
We haven't gone far: Half the world's
population still lives within 50 miles of the coast.
Nonetheless, our acquaintance with the
sea generally ends at the first slap of ocean wave; what happens
beyond the surf is hidden. But what is happening out there is
something we should be angry about.
The signs are ominous. On a good day in
the 1960s, an Atlantic fisherman could harpoon 30 large swordfish.
Today, such swordfish are hardly ever seen; commercial fishermen
on the East Coast set out a 15-to-30-mile line baited with 1,000
hooks. Even then, many they catch are immature.
What has happened to swordfish has happened
to hundreds of marine species. In the last 15 years, New England
cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder have declined 70 percent;
South Atlantic grouper and snapper, 80 percent; Atlantic bluefin
tuna, 90 percent. More than 200 separate salmon spawning runs
have vanished from the Pacific Northwest.
We are mining the seas of life. The number
of fish caught in 11 of the world's 15 major fishing areas has
declined from peak years, and four areas are at or near peak catch.
The human cost of this crisis is considerable.
For many it means hunger, since in some countries more than half
of the population's animal protein comes from the sea. Says Michael
Sutton of the World Wildlife Fund, "Unlike rhinos, tigers,
and bears, when you deplete fish populations, you're threatening
the survival of humanity."
For others, it means the end of a way
of life. The collapse of the Newfoundland cod fishery put 40,000
people out of work. In the Philippines, as traditional fishing
by net and spear yields smaller and smaller returns, divers stay
down 150 or 200 feet for hours, breathing air pumped through hoses,
in hopes of spearing a profitable catch. In some villages, paralysis
and brain damage caused by submersion at such depths is now a
For centuries, people have gone to sea
with heroic madness in their eyes. We went out to lift from the
depths not just food but something mystical. We looked upon fish
as castoffs from another world, as strange shapes and distant
wills. We went to tempt the shimmering darkness and pull it into
Even today, fish seem to us cold, silvery
dreams to which we do not attribute a capacity for thought or
feeling. We feel no remorse when the dazzle fades from their scales.
We have never thought of fish as fellow creatures, and we do not-deep
down-think of the sea as part of the living world.
In our technological age, such thinking
has terrible consequences. Our ancient awe now floats in steel
hulls, dragging multi-filament net over miles of seabed to pull
masses of life from the ocean. A modern North Pacific trawler
can reportedly take in one million pounds of fish in a single
Since World War 11, nation after nation
has built fleets of such vessels, and as a result the world's
finfish catch quadrupled between 1950 and 1990. It looked for
a time as if the sea were an inexhaustible source of wealth.
But that was an illusion. Most of the
increased catch came from a few distant water fisheries, whose
limits were quickly reached. Meanwhile, coastal fishermen had
to sail farther and farther from port to catch anything.
Large-scale fishing technologies have
become less and less selective: Fish too small to be taken and
species not legally fished are caught, and then thrown overboard
to die. Lee Alverson of Seattle's Natural Resources Consultants
estimates that in addition to the estimated 84 million metric
tons of marine fish legally landed in the world each year, approximately
27 million metric tons are caught and dumped at sea. With an unreported
catch that may be as high as 30 percent of the legal take, we
are removing far more than the 100 million metric tons of marine
fish that scientists estimate is the globe's maximum sustainable
We like to think of the oceans as so vast
and ancient as to be above greed or vanity. Byron wrote, "Man
marks the earth with ruin-his control stops with the shore."
But we now have the technological capacity to do to fish exactly
what we did to the buffalo and the passenger pigeon.
We are reducing the oceans' productivity.
We risk hunger, poverty, dislocation, and war. We destroy links
to our evolutionary past and to the future. We turn our backs
on the world and lose its kindness.
What can we do? Refusing to eat fish doesn't
even begin to address the problem because others will assume our
place. We must reduce the size of the world's fishing fleet, set
new limits, and enforce them.
Government agencies are investigating
restrictions on the gear fishermen may use, as one way to limit
catch. More effective area limits and fishing quotas may also
be required. For these or other controls to work, however, we
need international agreements binding all nations to a common
set of rules.
Unless we find new ways to care for the
sea, we will be its darkest legacy. Cast up from its depths millions
of years ago, we may now be the agents of its destruction.
Peter Steinhart, author of "Tracks
in the Sky" and "California's Wild Heritage," writes
about nature and environmental affairs.
BATTLE FOR THE DEEP
The Alaska fishery could be America's
last great resource giveaway-and powerful companies are fighting
for a piece of it.
Don Tyson has never fished aboard a Bering
Sea trawler, risking his life against treacherous weather to bring
home a catch of cod or pollock. He hasn't worked a midnight deck
shift in 30-foot seas or used a baseball bat to pound at the ice
that builds up on riggings and rails.
Tyson lives in the hill country of northwest
Arkansas, more than 3,000 miles from Alaska. "I'm just a
chicken farmer," he likes to say. But this chicken farmer
has turned a modest family business into one of the nation's largest
food conglomerates, grossing more than $4 billion a year.
Tyson Foods now wants to claim one of
the biggest shares of the Alaska fishery. The harvest rights it
seeks from the federal government would be worth tens of millions
of dollars each year. And unless federal law is amended, the government
may hand over the fishery without Tyson-or anyone else- paying
a dime in royalties.
Tyson has developed strong ties with President
Bill Clinton, and those ties could help the company as it makes
its case. The Alaska governor's office says Tyson representatives
"definitely" led them to believe they have influence
The privatization of the Alaska fishery
could be the country's last great resource handout. The prairies
were homesteaded in the past century; the railroads have claimed
their vast land grants; many of the rich mining deposits on public
lands have long since been staked out. The Alaska fishery is one
of the richest in the world, with a treasure trove of pollock,
cod, crab, and other species. It's a resource many Americans don't
even know they own.
Tyson ventured into the fishing industry
in June 1992, just about the time that Bill Clinton consolidated
his hold on the Democratic presidential nomination. The corporation
sought a seafood entree for its corporate dinner plate, and so
spent $212 million to buy Arctic Alaska Fisheries Corp., the largest
fishing company in the country.
Some industry observers questioned Tyson's
purchase because Seattle-based Arctic Alaska had an aging fleet
and a formidable array of legal problems. The worst of these problems
were detailed last April, when a federal grand jury hit Arctic
Alaska with a 44-count indictment. It charged the company with
falsifyng unsafe ships to sea, falsifying documents, and Iying
about crew qualifications, among other crimes. The grand jury
said these acts were part of a conspiracy that had put profits
ahead of people and led to the 1990 sinking of an Arctic Alaska
fishing vessel, an accident that killed nine people.
But Arctic Alaska's single-minded pursuit
of fish helped it to become one of the biggest seafood harvesters
in the Bering Sea. And the quantity of fish Arctic Alaska caught,
irrespective of how many laws it may have broken to catch them,
has put the company- and its new owner Tyson-in a position to
win a big share of the fishery.
Tyson Foods is wealthy and well-connected,
but it isn't the only major player in the high-stakes fish lotto.
Another is Christiania Bank of Norway, which bankrolled a big
chunk of the Bering Sea fleet with more than $300 million in loans.
Most of those loans are now in default, and the bank hopes to
take the fishing shares of the boats that can't pay up. Other
players include largely Japanese-owned shore processors; the catcher-boat
fleet and hook-and-line fishermen who deliver to the processors;
and native Eskimo and Aleut fishermen.
They all recognize that big changes are
coming to the Bering Sea fishery. Too many fishermen, wielding
awesome fishing technology, are going after too few fish. When
the fleet shrinks there will be winners and losers. All the players
are trying to make sure that whatever reform takes place will
put them in the winners' circle.
So far, the federal government has tried
to manage the catch by limiting the seasons for different species
of fish. Seasons that once stretched out for most of the year
have shrunk to a few months. This turns the harvests into frantic
derbies in which boats grab as much as they can as fast as they
can. The result is incredible waste, unsafe fishing practices,
and economic chaos for the industry.
Scientists are also increasingly concerned
about the effects of this intensive fishing on the broader Bering
Sea ecosystem. The Steller sea lion, for instance, is now listed
as a threatened species. Scientists have also tracked sharp population
declines in fur seals and some sea birds. And while the stocks
of pollock still appear relatively healthy, their total biomass
Meanwhile, the fishermen slug it out in
ever-shorter seasons. Under the derby system, they lack the time
and financial incentives to try to avoid catching fish that aren't
worth processing or are not legally in season. Last year, the
Alaska fleet caught 4.2 billion pounds of fish, then dumped a
staggering 763 million pounds-seven times more fish than is retained
by the entire New England fleet. As the competition intensifies,
so do the pressures to keep fishing through the worst winter storms,
increasing the risks in an occupation that has already killed
more than 165 fishermen off Alaska in the past six years.
To top it all off, the harvests, despite
their gargantuan scale, are too small to sustain the overcapitalized
fleet. Some vessel owners have already filed for bankruptcy, and
more filings are expected later this year.
As a solution to these problems, Tyson
and some other players are politicking for a kind of 20th-century
homestead act. The plan would divide the annual harvest into shares,
which would be given to fishing companies in proportion to some
part of their historic catch. The more fish and crab an operator
caught in the past, the bigger its share. Companies could then
leisurely fish their shares (called "individual transferable
quotas," or ITQs), lease them to other operators, or sell
them to the highest bidder. The total market value of all the
shares could easily exceed $1 billion according to several industry
By ending the race for fish, factory trawler
operators say they could curtail the waste. Boats would target
the species they want and would take the time to process whatever
fish they caught. Skippers would avoid practices that endangered
the lives of their crew members. And the fleet would shrink as
marginal operators sold out their shares. "We are convinced
that the future of the fishery up there is dependent on getting
toward some sort of ITQ system," said Archie Schaffer, an
Arkansas-based spokesperson for Tyson.
But not everyone agrees that privately
held quotas are the best way to reform the harvest. Even if the
government does turn to private quotas, critics say, the public
should scrutinize the deals and gain fair payment. They fear quotas
would prevent future generations of small boat fishermen from
breaking into the harvest. And they question a system that would
reward those companies with the biggest historic catches, since
those companies may have been the ones that flooded the harvest
grounds with too many boats, or broke safety and environmental
regulations, or wasted the most fish.
"The people who overcapitalized the
most, who showed very often the least business sense, are the
ones who stand to gain the most," says Bob Storrs, a fisherman
who helped organize the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. "No
matter how they treated this resource, regardless of their attitude
toward this publicly owned thing, we're going to give it to them
forever. This is absolutely ridiculous."
The hub of the Bering Sea fishery is the
remote island community of Unalaska, located some 800 miles southwest
of Anchorage on the Aleutian chain. Unalaska moves to the rhythms
of the fisheries, with great spasms of activity each winter as
the factory trawler and crab fleets move north from Seattle to
prepare for season openings. Hundreds of boisterous-sometimes
brawling-fishermen and processing crews descend on the island
bars as the vessels take on fuel, food, and other supplies. Then
they take to the sea to work in mindnumbing shifts of six hours
on, six hours off, for what may be weeks on end.
More than half of the Alaska bottom fish
is taken by an at-sea factory fleet that harvests with trawl nets
and lines dangling thousands of baited hooks. Tyson has a considerable
stake in this fleet, but many of the biggest vessels are financed
by Christiania and other foreign banks, and some are actually
owned by foreign investors.
In addition to the factory ships, there
are boats that deliver fish to shore plants for processing. One
of the smallest of these is the 85-foot Lone Star, skippered by
In the early days of the fishery, Burrece
could find plenty of cod without venturing far from port. But
this year, the season was short and the old fishing spot near
town was closed to protect Steller sea lions. To find cod Burrece
had to push the Lone Star to its limits, journeying 60 to 70 miles
out to the dangerous strait known as Unimak Pass.
He worked the fishing ground for three
days with a trawl net that scooped up about 200,000 pounds of
edible fish. But Burrece and his two crewmen dumped some 70,000
pounds of dead and dying pollock, sole, and halibut. They got
rid of the halibut because federal regulations retain them for
the hook-and-line fleet. The rest went over because the plant
Burrece delivers to was only prepared to handle cod.
Burrece recognizes that such waste is
a miserable way to do business. But so long as the processor doesn't
want those fish, there's no sense bringing them ashore. "We're
not wasteful people," Burrece said. "I think it's bullshit
to just shovel it all over the side. It's stupid because there's
only so much out there."
The shore processors (most of which are
owned by Japanese conglomerates) are another group concerned with
how the fishery is reformed. They have managed to win special
federal protection that guarantees them 35 percent of the pollock
harvest through 1995. After that date, they fear they will lose
out altogether in a reform program that simply doles out catching
rights. They have argued for a second tier of "processing
rights" that would mandate that they handle a portion of
the catch. "If there's some benefit that's going to be handed
out, we want to belly up to the bar like everyone else,"
says Dennis Phelan, a vice president of the Pacific Seafood Processors
Tyson's outpost in Unalaska is in a small
two-story office building squeezed between the mountains and a
long dock frequented by its fleet. A sign posted on the wall warns
crew members that "fighting, public intoxication, and reporting
to the vessels under the influence of alcohol" are cause
for firing. Don Tyson's son, John, who helped to arrange the Arctic
Alaska buyout, has tried several times to visit the company's
Unalaska outpost, but each time his aircraft was unable to land
due to foul weather. The senior Tyson has yet to make the journey.
From a single chicken processing plant
in the 1950s, Tyson has grown into the world's largest poultry
producer. During the past 25 years, the company, through more
than 20 acquisitions, sought to dominate a major share of the
American food industry by expanding its "center-of-the-plate"
protein offerings to include pork, beef, and now fish.
So far that strategy has paid off for
both Tyson and its investors. The company's stock ranked third
in total returns during the 20-year period that ended in 1992,
according to one financial analysis. Last year, Tyson reported
sales of $4.7 billion.
Tyson has also cultivated political ties,
most notably with Bill Clinton after he was elected Arkansas'
governor. Tyson offered Clinton rides in the company's corporate
jet and became an important fund-raiser during his presidential
bid. Tyson Food executives and their families gave $20,750 to
Clinton's campaign and another $22,000 to Democratic Party organizations.
The company's chief legal counsel, James Blair, is a close personal
friend of the Clintons and advised Hillary on her well-publicized
cattle futures trading.
The week before Tyson announced its 1992
purchase of Arctic Alaska, word of the buyout apparently leaked,
triggering a surge of Arkansas investment in the fishing company.
The federal Securities and Exchange Commission is now investigating
a group of Arkansas investors, including a firm then headed by
White House Administration Director Patsy Thomasson, for possible
insider trading. For those investors, short-term profits were
spectacular. When Tyson announced the buyout price, Arctic Alaska's
stock shot up 69 percent.
But Tyson's stock dipped at the news,
foreshadowing later trouble. Tyson took over a company that would
ultimately be saddled with a criminal indictment.
Arctic Alaska was founded in 1983 by fisherman
Francis Miller. At the time of Tyson's buyout, the company owned
more than 30 trawlers, hook-and-line boats, and crab vessels.
Many of the vessels had been converted
from other uses and shipped north without meeting stability standards
required by the Coast Guard. One of those vessels, the Aleutian
Enterprise, sank in a 1990 accident that claimed nine lives and
triggered April's grand jury indictment against the company, Miller,
and other Arctic officials of that era.
Schaffer, the Tyson spokesperson, said
the indictment makes no suggestion that anyone in current management
was involved, and adds, "[Tyson] deeply regrets the loss
of life. The only other thing that I can say is that the company
will vigorously defend the case.
The indictment painted a chilling picture
of unqualified officers leading green-sometimes teenage-crews
out to sea in unsafe ships. Officers must submit sea time to gain
certification, and an affidavit unsealed after the indictment
charged that Arctic Alaska officials had falsified that sea time.
In addition, Tyson has found that Miller
was lax in pollution controls. Last year, Arctic Alaska was hit
with a $750,000 fine by the Environmental Protection Agency for
failing to grind and properly dispose of fish wastes under the
Miller regime. The company also faces a criminal lawsuit filed
by the state of Alaska charging that the fleet repeatedly fished
with illegal bottom gear in sensitive coastal waters. Tyson has
hired Alaska Gov. Walter Hickel's personal attorney, Hal Horton,
to help settle the still-pending charges against Arctic Alaska.
According to state officials, Tyson also flew legal counsel and
Clinton friend James Blair up from Little Rock to plead Arctic
Some fishing industry insiders wondered
why Tyson would invest in a North Pacific company when it was
apparent that too many boats were already chasing the fish. In
an interview a few months after the acquisition, John Tyson told
a trade journal that the company took its cue, in part, from industry
proposals to create the share system. Tyson hopes that Arctic
Alaska's long catch history will ensure a large slice of the fish
pie. As it lobbies for the new system, Tyson is positioning itself
as an "all-American" company that has a more legitimate
claim to the resource than the foreign investors and banks that
stand behind many other fishery players.
For decades foreign fleets controlled
many of the trawler harvests in U.S. coastal waters. The 1976
Magnuson Act, which put a 200-mile zone under U.S. control, was
in large part an attempt to claim the harvest for Americans. That
vision was reaffirmed in 1987 by legislation that banned most
foreign vessels from reflagging as U.S. ships, and also restricted
foreign ownership of U.S. fishing vessels.
But some in Congress had doubts about
squeezing off foreign investment that might help finance the American
fleet, and the legislation had plenty of loopholes. During the
next five years, some boats came under the direct control of foreign
investors, while others were beholden to foreign banks.
The single biggest financier was Christiania
Bank of Norway, which loaned at least $315 million to factory
trawlers and other vessels. These vessels stampeded into the Bering
Sea in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Now, with the short seasons
and low prices, many ship operators can't make their payments.
Christiania has foreclosed on at least four factory trawlers.
Along with the vessels, Christiania hopes
to gain control of any fishing rights awarded to these companies.
According to a Christiania loan document, the bank has asked its
borrowers to sign covenants that pledge these rights as collateral.
That means if the bank calls a loan, it will end up with both
the vessel and a piece of the U.S. fishery.
Christiania officials say they don't plan
to use the fishing rights. Instead, they want to sell them to
recoup loan losses. But Tyson challenges Christiania's claim to
the resource. "The whole idea of the Magnuson Act is to Americanize
the fishery, and that just hasn't happened," says Tyson spokesperson
Schaffer. "We believe that American ownership is important
and that the companies that are American need to be rewarded."
The power to determine the fate of the
Alaska fishery rests with the North Pacific Fishery Management
Council, an 11-member group dominated by fishing industry representatives.
They pass their plans on to the National Marine Fisheries Service,
an agency in the Commerce Department, for final approval.
Most of the council members are from Alaska,
and they have frequently aligned themselves with the shore plant
operators out of concern that a share plan would give most of
the harvest to out-of-state factory trawlers.
Nonetheless, the council has already approved
a share plan for the $100 million-a-year hook-and-line harvest
of halibut and black cod, and is now considering a share plan
for the rest of the harvest. The hook-and-line plan set aside
a small percentage of the catch for regional natives, and the
new plan might do the same.
The council has been slow in developing
the new share plan. In April, it voted to consider a two-step
process that would first limit the size of the fleet, then eventually
award rights. In a nod to conservation concerns, the plan also
called for incentives that would give extra quotas to fishermen
who reduced waste.
Tyson and other factory trawler owners
have been lobbying to get the program on a faster track. For Tyson,
that's also meant trying to improve the company's image in Alaska.
Last March, Don Tyson flew to Alaska to meet with Gov. Hickel
and other state officials. Tyson talked of investing in shore
plants and using the corporation's power to push more fish into
the American diet.
Alaska state officials claim that one
Tyson representative said the company could talk to the White
House about lifting a ban on the foreign export of Alaska oil,
a congressional embargo that costs the state hundreds of millions
of dollars in lost revenue. "They definitely left us with
the impression that they had influence with the Clinton administration,"
says John Manly, Gov. Hickel's spokesperson. What Tyson wanted
was fishery council members who would support a quota system.
Tyson spokesperson Schaffer says the Alaska
officials were the ones who asked whether there was a way Tyson
could influence Washington on the state's behalf. "What I
told them is that I don't know whether there is or not but that
I would look into it," says Schaffer. "That's about
as far as it's gone." (If Tyson wanted to join forces with
Alaska in fighting the oil embargo, they need look no further
than the firm of Hal Horton, the lawyer they hired to defend Arctic
Alaska-it is representing the state in a suit to overturn the
federal government ban.)
Thus far, Tyson's success in shaping the
council has been limited. For each vacant seat, the governor proposes
three candidates, one of whom is selected to fill the post by
U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. One of the nominees Tyson favored
was pressured to withdraw by Alaska officials who feared a council
tilt toward the Arkansas company. Another Tyson-backed candidate,
Clem Tillion, is a controversial figure in Alaska, and the state
Senate has asked Brown to pick someone else.
But Tyson is not ruling out further efforts.
"We have not lobbied or talked to anyone in Washington about
any candidate," Schaffer says, "but I think that Clem
[Tillion] is someone who, if we decided to get involved in the
process, we would be supportive of.... Fish regulation and fish
politics are very different from what we'd been accustomed to,
and we're still trying to find our way around the whole council
If the council fails to deliver on the
quota plan, Tyson or other factory trawler operators could go
over their heads by lobbying the Clinton administration and Congress.
Some factory trawler representatives have already proposed an
amendment to the Magnuson Act-now up for reauthorization-that
would give the Commerce Department power to develop a plan on
But Rollie Schmitten, the director of
the National Marine Fisheries Service, says the regional council
should decide whether to introduce share plans. Schmitten also
proposes a new fishing industry fee to finance $82 million of
his agency's $280 million annual budget, a cost currently picked
up by taxpayers. And he thinks those fortunate enough to claim
harvest shares bear a special burden to pay. "If you are
going to bestow a public resource to certain individuals, then
there ought to be some sort of equity to the public," Schmitten
The Magnuson Act generally prohibits the
government from levying fees on the use of national fisheries,
but many members of Congress are joining Schmitten in pushing
for amendments to the act that would allow for fees to help pay
the cost of managing the resource and enforcing regulations.
However, any move to make the industry
pay substantial fees or royalties will probably face a chilly
reception. "We're open to discussing [fees and royalties],"
says Schaffer. "But we've not taken a formal position on
The battle over the future of this fishery
is likely to play out over the next few years both in Washington,
D.C., and at Alaska council meetings. And while fishermen fight
over who gets to profit from the resource, it will be up to the
council and fishery managers to keep the fishery healthy.
Many fishermen are convinced that Alaska
fisheries will remain strong, avoiding the fate of New England,
Newfoundland, and other great fisheries that have been fished
out. But conservationists fear these harvests could be the last
buffalo hunts of a dwindling resource.
Everyone from Tyson officials to small
boat fishermen like Chuck Burrece now speaks the gospel of conservation.
But there are no saints in the fishing industry, especially when
jobs are at stake.
Burrece, for example, feels squeezed between
factory trawlers who are hogging the resource and regulators who
might make him pay royalties for fishing rights. "We put
our lives on the line, that's how we're paying," Burrece
says angrily. "I got a lot of friends laying out there dead
from catching fish. That's how we pay. That's enough."
Burrece knows he risks the same fate if
he keeps defying the weather to go cod fishing. But in the race
for fish, he figures he can't afford to be idle too long. On a
dank evening last March, Burrece fidgeted at the dock. The forecast
for the next day was bad: northeast winds gusting more than 60
miles per hour. But Burrece kept thinking about those factory
trawlers that would be sure to haul in cod right through the storm.
Late in the evening, Burrece made up his
mind. He told his crewmen to untie the lines, and the Lone Star
motored out into the blackness of the Bering Sea.
Hal Bernton is an Alaska-based journalist
who has written extensively on fisheries.
WHERE THE FISH AREN'T: Most of what we
know about fish populations comes from fishermen, not biologists,
and fishermen report declining levels worldwide. Other factors
may enter in, but few dispute that overfishing imperils all of
the world's major fisheries. The United Nation's Food and Agriculture
Organization determined in April 1994 that roughly 60 percent
of fish populations they monitor are fully exploited or depleted.
Of the 15 major fishing areas, four have declined 30 to 50 percent
from estimated peak numbers, seven have declined 9 to 29 percent,
and only four are at or near their estimated peak.
SOURCE: PETER WEBER, WORLDWATCH INSTITUTE,
BASED ON FAO DATA.
THE FISH ARE CALLING: Something is terribly
wrong in the ocean and the fish are dying to tell us about it.
About 235 million years ago, however, the sea recovered from a
mass extinction that killed 96 percent of all life, so it can
probably outlast the current human demolition derby. We won't.
WASTING AWAY: Alaska's trawlers threw
away 763 million pounds of fish last year. Under the reform backed
by Tyson, some of the most wasteful companies would get the biggest
shares of the fishery.
FAST FOOD, SLOW FISHING: When the world
fished only with small nets, hooks, and lines, instead of trawls
the size of small shopping malls, the ocean could make fish as
fast as we killed and ate them. From 1988 to 1990, Americans ate
a record 47 pounds of seafood each, much of it imported; the Japanese,
160 pounds; and Icelanders, 203 pounds. The Maldivians on the
Indian Ocean were the champions at 293 pounds.
FISH FIGHTS: The politics of fish in America
have clearly promoted development over sustainability. Modern
industrial fishing is run by insiders, many of whose fortunes
depend on the decisions they make. Foxes and henhouses come to
Why Haven't We Stopped Tuberculosis?
"WHY DON'T WE STOP TUBERCULOSIS?"
by Anne E. Platt; World Watch, July/August 1994
Tuberculosis, a disease many people associate
with sequestered sanatoriums that were long ago abandoned or razed,
has now reemerged as the number one killer among the world's infectious
or communicable diseases. In 1993 alone, tuberculosis, also known
as TB, killed 2.7 million people and infected another 8.1 million.
In 1993, an estimated one-third of the world's population, or
1.7 billion people, were infected but had not yet developed the
The current TB epidemic is expected to
grow worse, especially in the developing world, because of the
evolution of multi-drug-resistant strains and the emergence of
AIDS, which compromises human immune systems and makes them more
susceptible to infectious diseases. Since the medical knowledge
exists to treat and cure TB, "this tragedy is totally unnecessary,"
Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima, Director-General of the World Health Organization
(WHO) said in January.
The resurgence of tuberculosis comes at
a time when other infectious diseases that were thought to be
well-controlled-malaria, cholera, and dengue fever among them-have
increased and new diseases, notably AIDS, have emerged. Despite
the advances in modern medicine, infectious diseases have persisted
and continue to have a major effect on public health: in the 50
years following the discovery of antibiotics, efforts to control
age-old epidemics have been overcome not by a lack of medical
knowledge but by structural problems, including the lack of adequate
health care in many parts of the world and increased rates of
travel and migration.
Dengue fever, which causes hemorrhaging
of the mucous membrane in the skin and abdomen, as well as aches,
rash, vomiting, and fever, has been called "the epidemic
waiting to happen." Dengue is endemic in Southeast Asia,
Africa, and the Caribbean, while malaria is rampaging in sub-Saharan
Africa, cholera is breaking out in South America, and the AIDS
epidemic is sweeping through Africa, Asia, and the developing
world. But the comeback of tuberculosis threatens more people
than AIDS, cholera, dengue fever, and other infectious diseases
combined. An estimated 2 to 3 million people were infected with
HIV in 1993 worldwide, compared to WHO's estimate of 8 million
people infected with TB.
By the year 2000, the global incidence
of TB alone is expected to increase to 10.2 million cases per
year-an increase of 36 percent over 1990's 7.5 million cases.
Three- quarters of this increase can be traced to poor TB control
programs, population growth, and the advancing age of the population;
the remaining quarter is attributed to the interaction between
the TB virus and the HIV virus. AIDS destroys the human cells
that keep the TB virus dormant and accelerates the speed at which
TB progresses from harmless infection to life-threatening disease.
Overall, tuberculosis deaths are predicted to increase by one-sixth,
to 3.5 million by the year 2000, killing 30 million people in
this decade alone.
"The factors contributing to the
increase in tuberculosis are multiple: it is not only HIV, it
is not only the emergence of multi-drug-resistant strains, and
it is not only because of the undermining and weakening of public
health services worldwide," says Dr. Jonathan Mann of Harvard
University's School of Public Health. "It is all of these
things combined." The world is suffering from such a severe
epidemic of tuberculosis that the World Health Organization declared
a global state of emergency in April 1993.
To complicate matters, the United States
and other countries are combating drug-resistant TB strains. The
U.S. National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Health reported
in 1992 that M. tuberculosis strains that are virtually resistant
to all effective drugs have emerged in cities in the United States
and elsewhere, with mortality rates over 50 percent. The academy
concluded that a successful control program requires "an
arsenal of vaccines and drugs" alongside diagnosis and surveillance.
Tuberculosis has special characteristics
that set it apart from other infectious diseases, most of which
rely on mosquitoes, rats, or water to transmit infection. Tubercle
bacilli only live in human tissues, and tuberculosis can only
be transmitted by close contact with an infected person. In a
healthy individual, the immune system is normally able to wall
off and isolate the bacilli in a nodule. This essentially neutralizes
the tubercle bacillus, so the person has what is referred to as
an inert infection. If the immune system remains strong, there
is only a 5 to 10 percent chance of developing TB from an inert
infection. But if the immune system is under severe stress-from
HIV, diabetes, or chemotherapy for cancer, for example- the chances
that the infection will develop into disease increase to as much
as 10 percent in a single year.
A person who has active TB can spread
the infection simply by coughing, sneezing, singing, or even talking.
Another person has only to inhale the bacilli to become infected.
If the infection is not detected and treated promptly, one person
with active tuberculosis can infect an average of 10 to 14 people
in one year and sometimes many more.
The estimated 1.7 billion people who have
inert TB infections may show no symptoms at all. Only if those
infections are activated will these people be at risk of developing
the disease and transmitting it to others. Unfortunately, little
is known about what activates a latent TB infection beyond the
fact that people with healthy immune systems run a low risk of
developing an active case of TB.
Because the already poor and disenfranchised
populations of the world carry a disproportionate burden of tuberculosis,
the disease has a certain stigma attached to it. But the unsanitary
and crowded living conditions that are often connected to poverty
do not cause TB to spread; they increase the chances that the
infection will spread from person to person and the chances that
a person's immune system may already be weak and therefore less
able to fight the infection. Despite the misconceptions, tuberculosis
is exacerbated only by the failure to detect and treat the infection
properly and by close contact with infected individuals.
More than 95 percent of TB cases reported
in 1990 were in the developing world, an estimated two-thirds
of them in Asia. India accounted for 2.1 million cases. Developing
countries are faced with a disproportionate number of cases because
AIDS is spreading quickly, health services are inadequate, and
little money is available for treatment. But tuberculosis is not
limited to the developing world: Eastern Europe, France, Spain,
and the former Soviet Union have also reported increases. In the
United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reported 26,000 cases in 1992, up nearly 20 percent from 1985.
Global monitoring by the World Health
Organization and regional health NGOs to identify and diagnose
TB must be combined with sufficient infrastructure and resources,
such as vaccines, medicines, trained health personnel, and clinics.
As with other diseases, funding for research and prevention and
treatment programs is essential.
Thanks to modern medicine, there is a
low-cost, effective TB treatment with high cure rates among infected
adults. It relies on four inexpensive drugs (rifampicin, isoniazid,
pyrazinamide, and ethambutol) that have a 90 percent success rate
if used every day for six to eight months. But if patients don't
take the drugs consistently or don't complete treatment, TB strains
develop that are more resistant to medicine, and sometimes even
untreatable. If this drug regimen were used throughout the world,
it would reduce the rate of transmission and cut the number of
deaths by half over the next 10 years, according to WHO. In 1993,
the World Bank identified short-term tuberculosis treatment as
one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce the global burden
of disease. In China, it costs only $13 for a supply of all the
drugs needed to cure one person. In most developing countries,
it costs less than $30 to save a life and prevent further transmission
of the disease. In the United States, it costs up to $10,000 to
treat an active case of TB compared to $200,000 to treat an active
TB infection that has become drug-resistant. Worldwide, early
treatment could prevent nearly 12 million deaths in the next decade,
and save vast amounts of money.
The growing TB epidemic is a classic case
of a public health crisis that could be headed off easily and
inexpensively. Its fate will largely depend on the willingness
of government and public health officials to invest up front in
prevention and early intervention. If we ignore the extraordinary
opportunity that exists now to fight the epidemic, we will pay
a high price in lives and extensive health care costs later.
Anne E. Platt is a staff researcher at
the Worldwatch Institute, where she studies environmental health
and fisheries issues.
Project HAARP: The Military's Secret Plan
to Alter the Atmosphere
"PROJECT HAARP: THE MILITARY'S SECRET
PLAN TO ALTER THE ION0SPHERE,"
by Clare Zickuhr and Gar Smith; Earth
Island Journal, Fall 1994
The Pentagon's mysterious HAARP project,
now under construction at an isolated Air Force facility near
Gakona, Alaska, marks the first step toward creating the world's
most powerful "ionospheric heater." Scientists, environmentalists
and native peoples are concerned that HAARP's electronic transmitters-capable
of beaming "in excess of I gigawatts" (one billion watts)
of radiated power into the Earth's ionosphere-could harm people,
endanger wildlife and trigger unforeseen environmental impacts.
The High Frequency Active Auroral Research
Project (HAARP), a joint effort of the Air Force and the Navy,
is the latest in a series of a little-known Department of Defense
(DoD) "active ionospheric experiments" with codenames
like EXCEDE, RED AIR and CHARGE IV.
"From a DoD point of view,"
internal HAARP documents state, "the most exciting and challenging"
part of the experiment is "its potential to control ionospheric
processes" for military objectives [emphasis in the original].
According to these documents, the scientists pulling HAARP's strings
envision using the system's powerful 2.8-10 megahertz (MHz) beam
to burn "holes" in the ionosphere and "create an
artificial lens" in the sky that could focus large bursts
of electromagnetic energy "to higher altitudes...than is
presently possible." The minimum area to be heated would
be 50 km (31 miles) in diameter.
The initial $26 million, 320 kW HAARP
project will employ 360 72 foot-tall antennas spread over four
acres to direct an intense beam of focused electromagnetic energy
upwards to strike the ionosphere. The Earth's ionosphere is composed
of a layer of negatively and positively charged particles (electrons
and ions) Iying between 35 and 500 miles above the planet's surface.
The next stage of the project would expand HAARP's power to 1.7
gigawatts (1.7 billion watts), making it the most powerful such
transmitter on Earth. While the project's acronym implies experimentation
with the Earth's aurora, HAARP's public documents make no mention
of this aspect. For a project whose backers hail it as a major
scientific feat, HAARP has remained extremely lowprofile-almost
unknown to most Alaskans, and the rest of the country.
A November 1993 "HAARP Fact Sheet"
released to the public by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) stated
that the Department of Defense (DoD)-backed project would "enhance
present civilian capabilities" in communications and "provide
significant scientific advancements." However, while previous
DoD experiments with smaller high frequency (HF) heaters in Puerto
Rico, Norway and Alaska were conducted to "gain [a] better
understanding" of the ionosphere, internal HAARP documents
obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal
that the project's goal is to "perturb" the ionosphere
with extremely powerful beams of energy and study "how it
responds to the disturbance and how it ultimately recovers..."
The public fact sheet describes HAARP
as "purely a scientific research facility which represents
no threat to potential adversaries and would therefore have no
value as a military target." However, while ionospheric experiments
at the government's Puerto Rico transmitter site are managed by
the civilian National Science Foundation, the Journal has learned
that proposals for experiments on HAARP are to be routed through
the Pentagon's Office of Naval Research.
A February 1990 Air Force-Navy document
acquired by the Journal lists only military experiments for the
HAARP project, including: "Generation of ionospheric lenses
to focus large amounts of HF energy at high altitudes...providing
a means for triggering ionospheric processes that potentially
could be exploited for DoD purposes...; Generation of ionization
layers below 90 km [145 miles] to provide radio wave reflectors
("mirrors") which can be exploited for long range, over-the-horizon,
HF/VHF/UHF surveillance purposes, including the detection of cruise
missiles and other low observables." The document concluded
that "the potential for significantly altering regions of
the ionosphere at relatively great distances (1000 km or more
) [1613 miles] from a heater is very desirable" from a military
One of HAARP's less-publicized goals is
to find ways to disrupt the global communications capabilities
of adversaries while preserving US defense communications. The
Pentagon also wants to know if HMRP could bounce signals to deeply
submerged nuclear subs by heating the ionosphere to trigger bursts
of Extremely Long Frequency (ELF) radio waves.
Patents held by ARCO Power Technologies,
Inc. (APTI), the ARCO subsidiary that was contracted to build
HMRP, describe a similar ionospheric heater invented by Bernard
Eastlund that claimed the ability to disrupt global communications,
destroy enemy missiles and change weather. One of ARCO's patents
identifies Alaska as a perfect site for a transmitter because
"magnetic field lines...which extend to desirable altitudes
for this invention, intersect the Earth in Alaska."
While HAARP officials deny any link to
Eastlund's inventions, Eastlund has told National Public Radio
that a secret military project was begun in the late-1980s to
study and implement his work and, in the May/June 1994 issue of
Microwave News, Eastlund claimed that "The HMRP project obviously
looks a lot like the first step" toward his vision of surrounding
the entire planet with a "full, global shield" of charged
particles that could explode incoming enemy missiles.
The military implications of HMRP were
further underscored in June, when ARCO sold APTI to E-Systems,
a defense contractor noted for its work in counter-surveillance.
ELECTROMAGNETIC GUINEA PIGS
HMRP surfaced publicly in Alaska in the
spring of 1993, when the Federal Aviation Administration (FM)
began advising commercial pilots on how to avoid the large amounts
of intentional (and some unintentional) electromagnetic radiation
that HMRP would generate. Despite the protests of FAA engineers
and Alaska bush pilots (for whom reliable communications can be
a matter of life or death) the Final Environmental Impact Statement
(FEIS) gave HMRP the green light. Ironically, the FEIS also concluded
that the project's radio interference would be too intense to
allow HMRP to be located near any military facilities.
On November 11, 1993, Inupiat tribal advisor
Charles Etok Edwardsen, Jr., wrote to the White House on behalf
of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope and the Kasigluk
Elders Conference. "Many of us are not happy with the prospect
of ARCO altering the Earth's neutral atmospheric properties,"
Edwardsen wrote. "We do not wish to be anyone's testing grounds,
as the Bikini Islanders have been...." referring to Pacific
Islanders subjected to radiation exposure from US atomic bomb
testing. Edwardsen has appealed to President Clinton to deny further
funding to HMRP.
In the past, the EPA has accused the USAF
of "sidestepping" the nonthermal hazards of electromagnetic
pollution from powerful radar transmitters. Over the past three
decades, numerous US and European studies have linked electromagnetic
exposure to a range of health problems including fatigue, irritability,
sleepiness, memory loss, cataracts, leukemia, birth defects and
cancer. Electromagnetic radiation can also alter blood sugar and
cholesterol levels, heart-rate and blood pressure, brain waves
and brain chemistry.
Wildlife advocates also have cause to
be concerned. The HAARP site lies 140 miles north of the town
of Cordova on Prince William Sound, on the northwest tip of Alaska's
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Since ordinary radar is known
to be deadly to low-lying birds, HMRP's powerful radiation beam
could pose a problem for migratory birds because the transmitter
stands in the path of the critical Pacific Flyway. In addition,
HMRP's ability to generate strong magnetic fields could conceivably
interfere with the migration of birds, marine life and Arctic
animals that are now known to rely on the Earth's magnetic fields
to navigate over long distances.
The HAARP fact sheet states that "most
of the energy of the high-power beam would be emitted upward rather
than toward the horizon." Later on, however, the fact sheet
notes that care will have to be taken "to reduce the percentage
of time large signal levels would be transmitted toward large
cities." The closest large cities are Fairbanks and Anchorage.
Even if HAARP's beam were to be directed
primarily at the ionosphere, people on the ground would still
have reason to be concerned. According to DoD consultant Robert
Windsor, clear damp nights, downdrafts and temperature inversions
can cause "ducting" and "super-refracting"
that can send energy beams streaming back to Earth with "a
significant-up to tenfold-increase in field intensity."
In addition to their main beams, all electromagnetic
transmitters produce large swaths of "sidelobe" radiation
along their flanks. US-based PAVE PAWS over-the-horizon radars,
for example, use approximately one megawatt of power to send a
420-430 megahertz (MHz) beam on a 3000 mile-long sweep. At the
same time, the "incidental" sidelobe radiation from
these Pentagon radars can disable TVs, radios, radar altimeters
and satellite communications over a 250-mile range. PAVE PAWS
radiation can also disrupt cardiac pacemakers seven miles away
and cause the "inadvertent detonation" of electrically
triggered flares and bombs in passing aircraft. At peak power,
the energy driving HAARP could be more than a thousand times stronger
than the most powerful PAVE PAWS transmitter.
HAARP'S HIGH-LEVEL HAZARDS
HMRP project manager John Heckscher, a
scientist at the Department of the Air Force's Phillips Laboratory,
has called concerns about the transmitter's impact "unfounded."
"It's not unreasonable to expect that something three times
more powerful than anything that's previously been built might
have unforeseen effects," Heckscher told Microwave News.
"But that's why we do environmental impact statements."
The July 1993 EIS does, in fact, admit
that HAARP is expected to cause "measurable changes in the
ionosphere's electron density, temperature and structure,"
but argues that these disruptions are insignificant "when
compared to changes induced by naturally occurring processes."
Subjecting the ionosphere to HF bombardment
can ionize the neutral particles in the upper atmosphere. The
HMRP Fact Sheet notes that "ionospheric disturbances at high
altitudes also can act to induce large currents in electric power
grids" on the ground, causing massive power blackouts. According
to the 1990 Air Force-Navy document, power levels of one gigawatt
and above "can drastically alter [the ionosphere's] thermal,
refractive, scattering and emission character." While the
ionosphere over the government's smaller HF transmitter in Puerto
Rico is relatively "stable," the document notes that
the ionosphere above Alaska is "a dynamic entity" where
added bursts of electromagnetic energy could trigger exaggerated
Writing in Physics and Society (the quarterly
newsletter of the American Physical Society), Dr. Richard Williams,
a consultant to Princeton University's David Sarnoff Laboratory,
denounced ionospheric heating tests as irresponsible and potentially
"Trace [chemical] constituents in
the upper atmosphere can have a profound effect" on the formation
of ozone molecules, Williams stated. It is known that altering
the temperature of the ionosphere can affect the chemical reactions
that produce ozone. Referring to the Montreal Protocol (the international
agreement to protect the ozone layer from ozone-depleting chemicals),
Williams warned that activating HMRP's ionospheric heater "might
undo all that we have accomplished with this treaty."
"Look at the power levels that will
be used-10 [to the 9th] to 10 [to the 11th] watts!" Williams
told the Journal in a recent interview. "This is equivalent
to the output of ten to 100 large power-generating stations. A
ten-billion-watt generator, running continuously for one hour,
would deliver a quantity of energy equal to that of a Hiroshima-sized
"Of course," Williams added,
"they will operate in a pulsed mode [producing a series of
short, powerful bursts], rather than continuously." The HMRP
fact sheet states that the HF beam, which operates in the 2.8-10
MHz band, will only be used 4-5 times a year for several weeks
at a time over a 20-year period. Nonetheless, Williams argued,
to proceed without a full public discussion of HAARP's potential
impacts runs the risk of committing "an irresponsible act
of global vandalism. With experiments on this scale," Williams
concluded, "irreparable damage could be done in a short time.
The immediate need is for open discussion."
Dr. Daniel N. Baker, director of the University
of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, offered
a less-alarming assessment. "The natural input of energy
to the magnetosphere from the sun is very commonly 10 [to the
11th] - 10 [to the 12th] watts," Baker told the Journal.
"Thus, HMRP may be a small fraction of the energy that flows
into the region." Baker added that the ionosphere is, by
nature, a "highly dynamic and fluctuating" environment
that is able to "flush" away energy disturbances in
a matter of hours or days.
Of course, in nature, one cannot simply
"flush" something away without anticipating potential
"downstream" consequences. Caroline L. Herzenberg, an
environmental systems engineer at the Argonne National Laboratory,
has suggested that, by "changing the chemical composition
of the atmosphere; [and] transporting plumes of particulates or
plasma within the atmosphere," HMRP may violate the 1977
Environmental Modification Convention, which bans all "military
or any other hostile use of environmental modification techniques
having widespread, long-lasting, or severe effects...." The
US ratified the convention in 1979.
THE PENTAGON'S $90 MILLION CAT SCAN
On June 14, a Senate committee report
noted that the Deputy Secretary of Defense had called for increasing
HMRP funding from $5 million to $75 million in the 1996 defense
budget. The sudden increase would be used to promote a disturbing
new mission for HMRP.
Instead of just pouring its vast energy
into the skies, the transmitter's power would be aimed back at
the planet to "allow earth-penetrating tomography over most
of the northern hemisphere"-in effect, turning HAARP into
the world's most powerful "X-ray machine" capable of
scanning regions hidden deep beneath the planet's surface. According
to the Senate report, this would "permit the detection and
precise location of tunnels...and other underground shelters.
The absence of such a capability has been....a serious weakness
for [DoD] plans for precision attacks on hardened targets...."
Meanwhile, construction on the larger
HMRP facility-with a potential effective radiated power of 1.7
GW (1.7 billion watts)-is set to begin in 1995. This expanded
version would require additional funding from Congress. According
to the 1990 project document: "The desired world-class facility...
will cost on the order of $25-30 million." The Senate Committee's
April report, however, predicts that the cost "could be as
much as $90 million."
What You Can Do: Write Congress to demand
a review of HAARP's environmental impacts. Request that the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration [NITA, c/o US
Department of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230] reject the HAARP
frequency/power request pending the outcome of a Congressional
inquiry. Queries and contributions may be sent to NO HMRP c/o
Jim Roderick, PO Box 916, Homer, AK 99603.
Clare Zickuhr, a former ARCO employee
and ham radio operator based in Anchorage, is a founder of the
NO HAARP campaign. Gar Smith is editor of the editor of Earth