Message to the Congress Reporting on the Whaling Activities of the Soviet Union

May 31, 1985

To the Congress of the United States:

Pursuant to the provisions of subsection (b) of the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen's Protective Act of 1967, as amended (22 U.S.C. 1978(b)), I am reporting to you following certification by the Secretary of Commerce that the Soviet Union has conducted whaling activities that diminished the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission conservation program.

Under the Pelly Amendment, when the Secretary of Commerce determines that a foreign country is conducting a fishing operation that diminishes the effectiveness of an international fishery conservation program, he will certify this determination to the President. After receiving a certification, the President may direct the Secretary of the Treasury to embargo the offending country's fishery products to the limits of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Within 60 days following the certification, the President is required to notify the Congress of any action taken under the certification.

On April 1, 1985, Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige certified the Soviet Union for whaling that diminished the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) conservation program. Secretary Baldrige based his determination on: (1) the Soviet harvest of Southern Hemisphere minke whales was greater than the level the United States considered the U.S.S.R.'s traditional share; (2) the 1984 - 85 IWC quota for Southern Hemisphere minke whales was exceeded due to Soviet harvest; and (3) there had been no indication that the Soviets intended to comply with IWC standards.

Southern Hemisphere minke whales are taken by the Soviet Union, Japan, and Brazil. The quota for these minke whales is divided into six areas. Brazil harvests whales from a land-based operation in Area Two, and Japan and the Soviet Union then divide the quota for the remaining five areas.

The Soviet Union, Japan, and Brazil have objected to the IWC Southern Hemisphere minke whale quota and, consequently, are not bound by the quota under international law. Even though the objections release the governments from any treaty obligation to observe the IWC limit, the taking of more minke whales than established by quota is inconsistent with this international conservation standard and, in the absence of any indication of compliance with IWC standards, diminishes the effectiveness of the Commission and its conservation program.

For the 1984 - 85 whaling season, Japan and the Soviet Union agreed not to exceed their 1983 - 84 harvest levels of 3027 and 3028, respectively, of Southern Hemisphere minke whales. These levels, if met, would exceed the 1984 - 85 IWC quota of 4224. Based on past allocations, the United States indicated that Japan and the Soviet Union could each take 1941 minke whales and remain consistent with the IWC limit. Japan has observed this limit, but the Soviet Union has not. We have taken a number of steps to resolve the Soviet whaling problem.

The trade sanctions authorized by the Pelly Amendment against Soviet fish products will not aid other Administration efforts to change the Soviet whaling policy. Under the Packwood-Magnuson Amendment, we cut in half Soviet-directed fishing allocations in our exclusive economic zone. We have also encouraged the Japanese to refrain from importing Soviet whale products taken contrary to the IWC conservation program, and Cabinet-level officials have met with Soviet officials to resolve the problem. These actions are designed to encourage the Soviet Union to observe the IWC program. A Pelly Amendment embargo, however, will have a negligible effect on the Soviet Union, as most of the products imported into the United States, such as king crab, are highly marketable elsewhere.

In addition, United States fishing interests could be seriously harmed by such a sanction. An embargo imposed in 1985 could cost the United States 90,000 metric tons of expected joint-venture catch and over $12 million. An embargo could result in the permanent dissolution of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. joint-venture company, which provides markets for underutilized species and fish that might solely be harvested by foreign vessels. Unemployment of U.S. fishermen and other related workers could also result from the loss of this joint-venture company.

In light of this assessment of the effect of an embargo on Soviet fishery products, I have not taken any action against the U.S.S.R. under the Pelly Amendment. If the Soviet Union makes no progress towards complying with the IWC program, I intend to reassess my position and take necessary action. I will send you a supplemental report at that time.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

May 31, 1985.