NOAA 99-077
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stephanie Dorezas
11/18/99

NOAA's FISHERIES SERVICE SEEKS NOMINATIONS FOR ADVISORY COMMITTEES THAT WILL HELP PROTECT DOLPHINS

The National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking nominations for candidates to serve on the General Advisory Committee and the Scientific Advisory Subcommittee for the Tuna Conventions Act, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today.

Under the Tuna Conventions Act, the United States is required to establish a General Advisory Committee and a National Scientific Advisory Subcommittee to make recommendations regarding conservation measures, sustainable uses of living marine resources, and research needs for tuna caught in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. These committees will provide advice on achieving the objectives of the International Dolphin Conservation Program.

In the 1950's, fishermen discovered that yellowfin tuna in the eastern tropical Pacific aggregated beneath schools of certain dolphin stocks. For years after that discovery, the predominate tuna fishing method in the eastern tropical Pacific was to encircle schools of dolphins with a fishing net to capture the tuna concentrated below. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of dolphins died in the early years of this fishery before fishermen began to employ techniques to reduce dolphin mortality.

The International Dolphin Conservation Program evolved in the early 1990's as an international voluntary program to protect dolphins. Amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act from 1984 to 1992 resulted in greatly reduced annual dolphin bycatch by the U.S. vessels participating in the tuna purse seine fishery in the eastern tropical Pacific. However, foreign participation and dolphin mortality caused by foreign vessels in the eastern tropical Pacific fishery continued to increase. Dolphin mortality is managed under the voluntary International Dolphin Conservation Program.

In August 1997, Congress passed the International Dolphin Conservation Program Act to implement the International Dolphin Conservation Program. The act primarily amends provisions in the Marine Mammal Protection Act dealing with the eastern tropical Pacific tuna purse seine fishery and the importation of yellowfin tuna and yellowfin tuna products from other nations participating in this fishery.

The General Advisory Committee and the Scientific Advisory Subcommittee will advise the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission on several issues, including the conservation of ecosystems, the sustainable uses of living marine resources related to the tuna fishery in the eastern tropical Pacific, and the long-term conservation and management of stocks of living marine resources in the eastern tropical Pacific.

The General Advisory Committee and the Scientific Advisory Subcommittee will be composed of five to 15 qualified experts, operating in their individual capacities, from the public and private sectors, and from non-governmental organizations. All committee positions are non-paid and each appointed member will serve for a term of three years. Members will be eligible for reappointment.

The criteria for the nominations include the following:

  • Experience in the commercial purse seine fishing industry involved in catching tuna in the eastern tropical Pacific;
  • Experience in associated industries such as the gear, fishing techniques and practices, or gear technology research; and/or
  • Former or current representation of a private, regional, state, national, or international organization which deals with issues related to the eastern tropical Pacific purse seine fishery.

Nominations to the committees should be submitted on or before Jan. 12, 2000 to Katie Moore, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Hwy., Room 13756, Silver Spring, MD, 20910 or by fax at (301) 713-0376. Nominations should include the applicant's name, a description of interest in the Tuna Conventions Act and related acts, a statement of background, a statement of qualifications, and a written commitment that the applicant will actively participate in good faith in the tasks of the committee. For more information regarding the nominations, please call J. Allison Routt at (562) 980-4019 or Katie Moore at (301) 713-2322, ext. 157.