Election 2004 and Our Oceans, Part II: John Kerry

A Look at the Presidential Candidates' Stance on the Environment, Part II - Sen. John Kerry

Stephen Sloan, author of Ocean Bankruptcy and chairman of the Fisheries Defense Fund, strongly intimates that presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry supports the commercial fishing industry rather than fisheries conservation. Considering that Kerry represents Massachusetts, a state with a large number of coastal communities that depend on commercial fishing, such a position is not surprising.

In his book Sloan cites a letter Kerry wrote (along with Senators Kennedy and Snow) in support of the East Coast Tuna Association, an organization that advocates the increased harvest of bluefin and yellowfin tuna despite scientific evidence pointing to a need to reduce the take. The letter also backed ECTA’s request to increase the American commercial bluefin quota from 200 metric tons to 250. Kerry also sided with the purse-seine boats that came close to destroying the Atlantic bluefin stocks by working to maintain what most believe is an unjust allocation of almost a quarter of the U.S. quota.

|| |—| |  More On Election 2004Discuss this topic in our forums.**FFSW Election Forum*** * *Our partner, _Sport Fishing Magazine_, has posted editorials and responses from the candidates. You can read more and respond in their forms here:Sport Fishing Magazine | Sloan further asserts that until last year Senator Kerry indirectly benefited from the commercial tuna industry. Kerry is married to Teresa Heinz Kerry, heiress to the Heinz fortune, the corporation that until recently owned StarKist tuna products, as well as several additional companies that market fish and other seafood. According to Sloan, the Heinz 57 Corporation’s annual report indicated that it sold over a billion dollars in tuna and tuna products, mostly yellowfin. Sloan also claims that it caught and processed large amounts of marlin in the Pacific for cat food.


For the most part, whatever the species involved, Kerry has aligned himself with the staunchest defenders of the commercial fishing industry in Congress. Columnist Al Ristori of The Fisherman noted that group of politicians “can be counted on to do whatever is necessary to prevent commercial interests from having to suffer from their overfishing of groundfish stocks.” Most recently Kerry worked to delay the implementation of amendment 13 to the Groundfish Management Plan. The amendment requires the industry in the Northeast to make massive cuts in their yearly quotas to ensure that cod, haddock, flounder and other species won’t be pushed to extinction. The commercial fishing lobby argued that the stock assessments were flawed because of sampling methods, and Kerry lobbied for an extension, which allowed commercial fishing to continue while “better” data is collected.

Despite the perception that Kerry supports the commercial fishing industry above the needs of fish, as the ranking member of the Oceans and Fisheries Subcommittee – a position he has held for more than a decade – he has done some pretty solid things on behalf of clean water, the ocean and the environment. He authored the Marine Mammal Protection Act amendments in 1994 and legislation that banned the use of nonselective and destructive drift nets. He was also a major player in the fight to pass the Sustainable Fisheries Act. The League of Conservation Voters gave Kerry an unprecedented lifetime score of 96 percent on its National Environmental Scorecard. He has undoubtedly been a champion of clean air, clean water and open space.

Kerry has been vocal about the fact that he does not favor exempting the Department of Defense from the Endangered Species Act, suggesting that to do so could open the door to a series of unregulated and damaging activities. In addition, in 1996 he voted against a moratorium on adding new candidates to the Endangered Species list, a freeze that could have affected threatened salmon populations.


In an amendment to the 2002 energy bill, Kerry (along with McCain) proposed increasing fuel efficiency standards but was struck down. Kerry also opposed efforts to drill in places with sensitive fish habitat such as Georges Bank, and areas off Florida and California and further supports a continued moratorium on oil and gas drilling on the outer continental shelf.

Kerry has been active in trying to stop global warming as well. His stance on this issue goes back to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, where he participated in the U.N. negotiations to create the Framework Convention of Climate Change. He also served in the congressional delegation to the 1997 Kyoto and 2000 Hague climate talks, where he favored an agreement to reduce global warming.

The senator has made campaign promises to end current directives to slow the execution of pollution laws and has discussed increasing funding for environmental enforcement. He opposes efforts to roll back the “new source review” requirement in the Clean Air Act. This stipulates that older plants install pollution-control equipment when expanding or upgrading their operations, and it would reduce mercury emissions significantly more than does the current plan. In 2003 Kerry also voted for an amendment to postpone the requirement change pending a study of its effects on human health.


He is on record as opposing the exclusion of streams and “isolated” wetlands from the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and has co-sponsored legislation to affirm the “historic scope” of the law. He has backed legislation to deny federal funding for the expansion of factory hog farms, which pollute waterways nationwide, and voted to support the Toxics Release Inventory that requires companies to report releases of toxic substances into the environment. He also co-sponsored legislation to support the “polluter pays” corporate tax that would have taken care of superfund site cleanups, and voted in early 2003 to reinstate that tax.

Kerry also has a strong environmental record on mining issues. He argued on the Senate floor in July 2002 for reforms that would require mining companies to pay royalties for the minerals they extract from public lands and to pay for the cleanup of the toxic waste inherent in the industry. He further supported regulations giving the Bureau of Land Management the authority to reject a mining proposal if it would unnecessarily damage the environment. In 1999 he co-sponsored an amendment to the Interior Appropriations Bill that would have prevented mining companies from dumping unlimited amounts of toxic waste on public lands. He further voted against an amendment to allow mountaintop removal mining practices to continue unabated.

The senator also voted to limit subsidies for logging in national forests. He opposed government credits for timber road building and supports the roadless rule for national forests. Sustainable logging and keeping our national forests intact translate to less runoff, less sediment, cleaner water and better flow of our streams and rivers, thereby ensuring the protection of critical habitat for anadromous salmon populations.


In conclusion, Sen. John Kerry has a historical record of aligning himself firmly on the side of the environment in most cases. The one issue he has consistently failed on is preserving fisheries and limiting commercial fishing interests.

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