Donut Case

North Pacific Overfishing (DONUT)



 

                         CASE NUMBER:    169
                         CASE MNEMONIC:  DONUT
                         CASE NAME: The Donut Hole

A.   IDENTIFICATION

     1.   The Issue

          Conflicts over harvesting and depletion rates arise in 
any "open-access" fishery, but they can become especially heated 
when the stocks being fished are suspected to straddle or move 
back and forth across the open area and an area of regulated 
national jurisdiction. This is exactly the problem that has  arisen
in the Central Bering Sea. Since the extension of ocean 
jurisdiction to 200 nautical miles by both the United States and 
Russia, the Central Bering Sea is completely surrounded by the  two
nations' exclusive economic zones (EEZ). This area thus  remains
high seas and is termed "Donut Hole". Large-scale   fishing of
"pollock" in the Hole by the United States, Russia,  Japan, South
Korea, China, and Poland resulted in the depletion  of pollock
stock and endangered other species which feed on it,  including
Steller sea lion, fur seal, and seabirds. Fortunately,  a
convention was signed on June 16, 1994 by the states stated  above
with regard to the regulating of fishing in the Donut Hole.       

     2.   Description

          The first issue that should be elaborated is the 
characteristics of the Bering Sea. The North Pacific-Bering Sea 
region exhibits several biological and geological features with 
important implications for the use of its resources. The
shallowness and width of continental shelves, large-scale
upwellings, the hydrochemical structure, seasonal sea ice, and 
other factors result in extremely high productivity (Broadus 
et.al. 1994). Therefore, the average productivity of the North 
Pacific is 1.3 to 4.5 times the average background values for the 
oceans in general. The Bering Sea proper has high concentrations 
of nutrients, which in turn support large growths of
phytoplankton and zooplankton. This ecosystem includes 450  species
of fishes, crustaceans, and mollusks, of which 50 species  are
commercially important. Pollock, Pacific code, and sole are 
valuable demersal fishes.

          The high seas donut hole encompasses approximately 
48,000 square miles of surface area and comprises 19 percent of 
the Aleutian Basin or 10 percent of the entire Bering Sea area 
(Canfield 1993). Although there are uncertainties about how much 
stocks in the Donut Hole actually straddle, both the United  States
and Soviet Union became increasingly concerned in the late  1980s
about uncontrolled fishing there by Japan, South Korea,  China, and
Poland (Broadus: 60). The "Alaskan pollock" stock  constitutes the
most significant stock being targeted in the  Hole. Rapid
development of this fishery brought a total pollock  catch from of
only 363,424 metric tons in 1985 up to nearly 1.5  million metric
tons in 1989 (Canfield: 262). The Alaskan pollock  also became the
single-species that was caught the most in the  world. In 1970 it
was the third with 3.1 million catch, behind  Peruvian anchovy and
Atlantic cod. However, in 1980 its catch  increased to 4.0 million
tons, leaving other species far behind  (Weber 1994). Because of
this high catch, U.S. fishermen suspected the foreign fleets were
simply using the Hole for  staging covert fishing operations within
US waters. Between  September 1989 and July 1992, U.S. coast guards
seized eleven  foreign fishing vessels allegedly engaged in such
activity  (Canfield: 261).              

          Apart from the legal loopholes and economic reasons,  the
technological innovation contributed to the depletion of  pollock
stock in the region. Not only are there more boats, but  the boats
are better at catching fish. Modern driftnets, for  example, are
made of nylon mono or multifilament with a diameter  of about 0.5
mm. Because the material is both invisible and  acoustically
undetectable, catches by driftnets are indiscriminate. And because
the nets are virtually unbreakable, almost nothing over mesh size
can escape, making driftnetting a highly efficient mode of capture.
"In early 1980s Japanese  fleets, as well as Taiwan and South
Korea, came to use large-scale driftnets in the North Pacific Ocean
to catch salmon, tuna, squid, [pollock], etc. Among victims are
marine mammals, such as whale, dolphin, porpoise, fur seal; and
other sea animals such as sea turtle and even sea birds" (Lee
1994). Technology also helped fishing vessels find fish and get to
where they are. Sonar  displays, radar, computer databases and
other devices allow the  crew to determine not only the location of
schools of fish but  their type and size.                    

          Pollock stock diminished by an estimated 75 percent by 
1991 that resulted in dramatic changes in entire marine
ecosystem. One species of marine mammals, the Stellar sea cow,  has
already been driven to extinction in the Bering Sea. Pollock  are
important food species for "northern fur seals" in the  region.
Researchers found out that, during the period of fishery  expansion
for pollock, northern fur seal diets included
progressively more pollock (Broadus: 58). Consequently, fur seal 
population declined by about half during the era before
stabilizing in recent years. "Harbor seal" population has also 
waned (Lexis/ Nexis).  

          Depletion of pollock stock also contributed to the  rapid
decline in numbers of "Steller's sea lion". Statewide, the 
population totals about 37,000, a decline of more than 70% since 
the mid 1970s. From the Western Gulf of Alaska to the Aleutian 
Islands, the population has dropped about 85 percent since 1960. 
Sea lions are particularly vulnerable because the remaining 
population is grouped in isolated clusters rather than spread out 
evenly over the region. Projections have indicated that the 
Steller's sea line extinct in little more than twenty years if 
this rate of decline continues (Lexis/Nexis).  The U.S. federal 
government has declared the Steller sea lion a threatened species 
and is scheduled to review that status to see if they should be 
designated as endangered. Researchers also proposed that poor 
pollock recruitment in recent years led to persistent seabird 
breeding failures, as well as to declines in population sizes of 
"black-legged kittiwakes and red-legged kittiwakes." By 1989, the 
red-legged kittiwake population had dropped to about half its  1976
total of 250,000.  

     3.   Related Cases:


     DRIFTJAP Case
     GILLNET Case
     DRIFTEC Case
     TURBOT Case
     SALMON Case
     PACTUNA Case

     4.   Draft Author: Nejat DOGAN

          B.   LEGAL Clusters

          Mutual recognition of the need to jointly address the 
problem of overfishing in the Central Bering Sea was first 
evidenced in the declared results of the May 29-June 2, 1988, 
Reagan-Gorbachev summit meeting in Moscow. The leaders expressed 
the intent to cooperate on a wide variety of issues revolving 
around the Bering Sea (Canfield: 268). In June of 1990, during  the
US-USSR Summit, Presidents Bush and Gorbachev issued a joint 
statement calling for urgent conservation measures to be taken 
with regard to the unregulated pollock fishery (Convention on the 
Conservation and Management of Pollock Resources in the Central 
Bering Sea 1994). Meanwhile, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, 
acting on behalf of Greenpeace, sued the National Marine
Fisheries Service (NMFS). The suit claimed that a 41% increase in 
the total allowable catch for Gulf of Alaska pollock for 1991 
violated NMFS's obligation under the Endangered Species Act to 
avoid any action "likely to jeopardize the continued existence of 
any endangered or threatened species" (Lexis/Nexis).              

     The United States increased its pressure to conserve  the
Donut Hole resources in 1992 by passing the "Central Bering  Sea
Fisheries Enforcement Act." This Act prohibited U.S.
nationals and vessels from fishing in the Donut except when 
allowed under an international fishery agreement to which both  the
U.S. and Russia are parties. The Act also prohibited the  entry
into U.S. ports of fishing vessels from foreign nations  fishing in
the Donut outside of an international agreement to  which both the
U.S. and Russia are parties. 

          By August 1992 pollock stocks had declined so
drastically that China, Japan, South Korea, and Poland agreed to 
join the United States and Russia in a "voluntary suspension" of 
fishing for pollock in the Donut Hole for all of 1993 and 1994. 
The United States and Russia also agreed to suspend pollock 
fishing in their Bering Sea EEZs (Broadus: 61). Total pollack 
catch in the Hole dropped to 10,308 metric tons in 1992. On April 
4, 1993, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin, in the Joint Statement 
issued at the Vancouver Summit, announced their intention to 
expand and improve their joint work in the area of environmental 
protection.         

          Finally, the "Convention on the Conservation and 
Management of Pollock Resources in the Central Bering Sea" was 
signed in Washington on June 16, 1994, by China, South Korea, 
Russia, and the United States. Japan and Poland also signed the 
Convention in Washington on August 4, 1994, and August 25, 1994, 
respectively. According to the Convention, there will be no 
fishing for pollock stock unless a threshold of 1.67 million 
metric ton is reached. A second key point is that if a fishery is 
allowed in the Donut Hole, fishermen of each nation will
participate in that fishery through either a national quota or by 
way of the establishment of a fishing seasons. There are also 
strict enforcement measures. These measures relate to the use of 
real-time satellite position fixing transmitters, boarding and 
inspection on the high seas, and notification requirements that 
relate to entry into the fishing area.  

     5.   Discourse and Status:  AGR and COMPLETE

     6.   Forum and Scope:  BERING SEA AND MULTI

     7.   Decision Breadth:  6 (CHINA, JAPAN, POLAND, RUSSIA,     
                            SOUTH KOREA,USA)

     8.   Legal Standing:  TREATY

     C.   GEOGRAPHIC Clusters

     9.   Geographic Locations

     a.   Geographic Domain : Pacific 

     b.   Geographic Site   : Northern Pacific

     c.   Geographic Impact : USA

     10.  Sub-National Factors:  NO

     11.  Type of Habitat:  OCEAN/ Alaskan Pollock, Mammals.      
     D.   TRADE Clusters

     12.  Type of Measure:  REGBAN, QUOTA, and REGSTD

          There will be no fishing for the stock of pollock  unless
a threshold biomass of 1.67 million metric tons is
reached. Thus, there is a regulatory ban for fishing if biomass  is
under this volume. (Biomass is defined as any quantitative 
estimate of the total mass of organisms comprising all or part of 
a population or any other specified unit, or within a given area 
at a given time; measured as volume, mass or energy, Lincoln 
et.al. 1982). Secondly, even if biomass is enough for fishing,  the
parties to the Convention must negotiate to find the best way  to
fish, whether to set a quota or to fix a fishing season. So,  there
is a possibility of setting a quota as well as a regulatory 
standard.      

     13.  Direct vs. Indirect Impacts:  DIR

     14.  Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact

     a.   Directly Related    : YES 

          The Convention aims to eliminate the problem of pollock 
depletion, and thus, brings a solution to the species loss with 
regard to the Northern fur seal, the Steller sea lion, and black- 
and red-legged Kittiwake. So, the measure has both direct and 
indirect implications.   

     b.   Indirectly Related  : YES

     c.   Not Related         : NO

     d.   Process Related     : YES 

          Although this study concentrated on the pollock catch, 
there are surely other problems in the North Atlantic Ocean with 
regard to marine environment. Driftnet fisheries and incidental 
take are two of these problems. The Convention, by regulating 
fishing activities in the Donut Hole, will affect the population 
of pollock, marine mammals and sea birds positively in the long 
run.   

     15.  Trade Product Identification:  FISH / ALASKAN POLLOCK   
   16.  Economic Data

          Pollock has been an important revenue source for 
fishermen during the 1980s. Whereas the total pollock cath in the 
Donut Hole was 100,000 metric tons in 1983, it was almost 1.5 
million metric tons in 1989. Thanks to the measures taken, the 
catch dropped dramatically to the level of 0.3 million metric  tons
in 1991, and to almost zero in 1992. The value of pollock in  1989
was $331/ton. If we recall that fish prices increased more  than
those of beef, pork, and chicken from 1974 on, the economic  value
of the catches from the Donut Hole can be better
understood.              

          Fishing is of great importance to the state of Alaska. 
In 1990, the Alaskan fishing industry produced 46 percent of all 
U.S. seafood, with an estimated wholesale value of more than $3 
billion. Fishing supports one-sixth of the state's economy, 
employing approximately 20,000 individuals (Canfield: 258).       

       The high seas fishery has been regarded as extremely 
important by each of the states operating distant water fishing 
fleets in the Bering Sea. Poland regards the Central Bering Sea  as
its most valuable fishing grounds, yet its catch there has 
consistently declined. Japan has traditionally invested the most 
in increasing its catch. In 1989, Japanese fishermen caught 
654,909 metric tons of Alaskan pollock in the Donut Hole. By late 
1991, Japanese fleets operating in the Bering Sea employed a  total
crew of 3,300, and an estimated 20 to 30 percent of the  country's
pollock supplies have originated in the Bering Sea high  seas each
year.          

     17.  Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness:  HIGH 

     18.  Industry Sector:  Alaskan Pollock [FOOD]

     19.  Exporter and Importer: Many and Many

     E.   ENVIRONMENT Clusters

     20.  Environmental Problem Type:  Species  Loss Sea [SPLS].

          Besides the fact that Stellar sea cow has already  become
extinct in the Bering Sea, the existing threat to other  species
can be summarized as follows: First, pollock are important food
species for northern fur seals. During the period  of fishery
expansion for pollock, however, northern fur seal  diets included
progressively more pollock, despite a drop in size  of the fish
eaten. Second, ecosystem-wide stress is also thought  to be
contributing to the precipitous decline in numbers of  Steller's
sea lion (Eumatopias jubatus) in the Bering Sea region.  The
population had fallen 63 percent since 1985. The decline was  most
pronounced in the Eastern Aleutian Islands (93 percent since 
1960), but it eventually extended from the Gulf of Alaska to the 
western Aleutians. Projections have indicated that the species 
could become extinct in little more than twenty years if this  rate
of decline continuous. Last, but not least, poor pollock 
recruitment in recent years led to the decline in population  sizes
of black legged kittiwakes, red-legged kittiwakes, and  other
piscivorous seabirds at island colonies in the Bering Sea.  

     21.  Name, Type, and Diversity of Species 

          Name:          Steller Sea lion
          Type:          Animal/Mammal/Fish
          Diversity:     Many

     22.  Impact and Effect:  MEDIUM and PROD

     23.  Urgency and Lifetime:  MEDIUM and 20 years

     24.  Substitutes:  BIODG

     VI.  OTHER Factors

     25.  Culture:  YES

          Pollock is regarded as a special resource in Japan, 
where it is used in fishcakes and rolls of boiled fish paste. 

     26.  Trans-Border:  YES

     27.  Rights:  YES

          Regulation of fishing in the Donut Hole will surely 
affect "people's right to work" negatively, at least in the short 
run.

     28.  Relevant Literature

Broadus, James M. and Raphael V.Vartanov,  "Living Resource      
Problems," in their The Oceans and Environmental Security.      
Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1994, pp.50-85.   

Burke, W.T. "Anandromous Species and the New International Law of 
     the Sea." Ocean Development and International Law 22, pp.95- 
     131.

Canfield, J.L. "Recent Developments in Bering Sea Fisheries      
Conservation and Management."  Ocean Development and
     International Law 24, pp.257-289. 

Convention on the Conservation and Management of Pollock 
     Resources in the Central Bering Sea (Treaty Doc.103-27).
     Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations United
     States Senate, 103rd Congress, 2nd Session. Washington:
     U.S.Government Printing Office, 1994.

"Curb on  Bering Sea Fishing Tentatively Set," The New York
     Times,  February 14, 1994,  A8: 3.

"Hard Harvest on Bering Sea," National Geographic, v.182, October 
     1992, pp.72-103.

Lee James, Ted Cases Collection (unpub.), American University.
     Lexis/Nexis. ENVIRN/Donut Hole/ALLNWS and ENVIRN/Pollock and 
     Bering Sea/ALLNWS.

Lincoln, R.J., G.A.Boxshall, P.F.Clark. A Dectionary of Ecology,
     Evolution and Systemics. New York: Cambridge University Press,
     1992.

Weber, Peter. Net Loss: Fish, Jobs, and the Marine Environment.
     Worldwatch Paper 120. Worldwatch Institute, July 1994.  




Back to previous menu