Last Tuesday the EPA announced its commitment to making the nation's beaches clean and safe for swimmers. The "new" plan basically entails enforcing laws and programs already on the books - programs, I might add, that Congress and the Administration have thus far neglected to adequately fund. When it passed the B.E.A.C.H. Act in 2000, Congress authorized $30 million for beach programs and grants. This administration has never asked for more than $10 million, and despite the new promise to ramp up attention to beach water quality it hasn't proposed any funding increase in the FY 05 budget.
The EPA is flexing its muscles and threatening to step in to set water safety standards for states that don't comply with B.E.A.C.H. Act rules, as it should, but with only one third of the money they need for testing and monitoring, beach states are in a tough place. If the Administration is serious about cleaning up beach water it should fully fund the B.E.A.C.H. Act for 2005 and strengthen - not weaken - pollution control measures that tackle the problem at its source.
Who said fishing was tame? The last month has seen a spate of news articles about pirate fishing - illegal fishing by boats that flout national and international law. Most recently, South Africa's Independent Online reported the dramatic seizure of two boats fishing illegally off Mozambique:
In scenes reminiscent of a rip-roaring pirate movie, armed South African fishing inspectors hurled stun grenades at two "pirate" fishing ships and seized them after boarding them spectacularly in the Mozambique channel.
The fish pirates from the Far East were using "wall of death" gill-nets off the coast of Mozambique on March 11 and 12.
The high seas adventure resulted in the impounding of the Indonesian-registered Sin Iu Peng and the Chinese-registered Nong Jyl Lih, the arrest of 42 crewmen drawn from a variety of Asian countries and the confiscation of fish valued at about R2-million.
Allafrica.com reports that the boats, which were licensed to fish for tuna, had actually stuffed their holds with 70 tons of shark fins. Apparently Mozambiquan fishermen have been complaining for a while that foreign, illegal fishing ships were plundering their waters. Seems they know what they're talking about.
On other continents, meanwhile, "the captain and senior crew of the alleged toothfish pirate vessel Viarsa 1, captured after the longest chase in Australian maritime history, have denied charges of illegal fishing" (from Australian news site News.com.au). And the BBC relays a claim by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) that pirate fishing is driving the albatross to extinction.