U.S. Approves Pact to Protect Pacific's Dolphins

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the last hours of the congressional session Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed a measure to resolve the international dispute over a tuna fishing method that has killed or harmed thousands of dolphins each year.

The International Dolphin Conservation Act of 1992, which President Bush is expected to sign, lifts an import ban reluctantly enforced by the United States against a dozen tuna-fishing nations. It calls for a five-year moratorium on certain fishing methods in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, where dolphin mingle with tuna and often are caught in fishermen's nets.

The act results from a compromise reached last June among environmental groups, Congress and the Bush Administration.

The trade ban had been condemned by the Secretariat of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT, and has been a rancorous issue in U.S.-Mexico talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Environmentalists considered Mexico the prime offender because of its continued use of fishing methods that endangered dolphins.

The presidents of Mexico and Venezuela announced last February that they would agree to an international pact containing the same five-year moratorium.

The measure also provides $3 million for monitoring, enforcement and research in alternative fishing methods and makes the U.S. a "dolphin safe" market in 1994, after which it will be illegal to sell tuna caught with dolphin-endangering fishing techniques.

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