Ralph Nader letter to Senator Ted Stevens

Senator Ted Stevens
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

November 10, 2003

Dear Senator Stevens:

As President Pro Tempore of the Senate, you know as well as anyone in the Senate, and better than most, the value and importance of adherence to Senate procedures and process. Also, as one of the primary authors of the Sustainable Fisheries Act in 1996 and outspoken advocate for the use of the Fishery Management Council process for managing Americaís fish resources, you know the importance of public participation in the fishery management process.

  I was surprised, therefore, to hear at a meeting in Washington this past week that you are attempting to circumvent the established rules of the Senate and provisions of the Sustainable Fisheries Act with a stealth rider on the Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations Bill. Such an action seems unworthy of the Senator whose name carries the very Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act that you helped to amend with the Sustainable Fisheries Act barely half a dozen years ago.

There are serious problems with your proposal that is designated as Title IX of the CJS Appropriations Bill, problems that I would have assumed that you would have recognized and avoided. Since these problems still have not been addressed, even after very broad coalitions of fishermen, conservationists, scientists and your fellow members of Congress pointed them out, I must assume that your busy schedule has not allowed you to fully consider them. In summary fashion then, these are the problems with Title IX that can only be addressed by removing the entire title and allowing the processes that you so frequently endorse to be followed in the North Pacific as they are in the rest of the United States:

1. The limitation on funding for implementation of the Essential Fish Habitat requirements is a denial of the public process that is currently underway in the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

2. That same limitation denies even the possibility for the very scientific research that you insist is necessary for the Council to do its work fairly and appropriately.

3. That same limitation virtually guarantees the continued destruction of deep sea coral gardens that the head of Fisheries for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has determined to be Habitat Areas of Particular Concern warranting special protection.

4. The provision that creates a cabal of processors which are granted exclusive rights to receive and process North Pacific crab resources was found to be anti-competitive by the Justice Department and to be potentially in violation of Anti-trust laws.

5. That provision for “Processor Quotas” or PQs would create the very kind of combination in restraint of free trade that the National Research Council, in the report “Sharing the Fish”, said was unnecessary even if an IFQ system for fishermen were to be established.

6. The inclusion of a section of the rider favoring a corporation that your son lobbies for and on whose board of directors your son sits presents an unfortunate but undeniable perception of a very raw and disturbing conflict of interest.

7. The provision to institutionalize a destructive bottom trawling fishery for Aleutian Rockfish at the very time that the National Research Council findings on the damaging impacts of trawling on habitat are being considered by the councils and the courts is counterproductive and unnecessarily violates reasonable conservation principles.

8. The provision that opens thousands of acres of ocean floor, that have been closed to fishing for the past several years in order to protect endangered Steller sea lions, flies in the face of the caution that you have so frequently praised as a conservative approach to fisheries management in the North Pacific.

Any reasonable reading of the clear language of your proposal leads inexorably to the conclusion that these are not incidental or coincidental problems with your Title IX rider but the clear and intended results of it.

Please rethink and reconsider your position on this matter and allow the Senate process and the public process to proceed by withdrawing the Title IX and proceeding with the CJS Appropriations bill.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader
P.O. Box 19312
Washington, D.C. 20036

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