ALASKANS HAIL JAPAN'S PLEDGE TO STOP DRIFT-NET FISHING

Alaska commercial fishermen and salmon-dependent Alaska natives hailed Tuesday's announcement that Japan will halt all its high-seas drift-net fishing by the end of 1992."We're very happy about it. Now it ... means that more fish will enter the Alaska nets," said Carol Torsen, subsistence manager for the Rural Alaskan Community Action Program, an organization that promotes native interests. High-seas drift nets have robbed salmon from Alaska Eskimos, Indians, and Aleuts, along the upper Yukon River, where natives live a traditional "subsistence" lifestyle similar to that of their ancestors, Ms. Torsen said. Interception of salmon has reduced the flow of the fish to a trickle. The pleas of native Alaskans, who made a special lobbying trip last week to New York to persuade United Nations delegates to outlaw all high-seas drift nets, is believed to have provided the final push to previously stubborn Japanese officials, said Torsen. Vivid descriptions of the damage done to natives' traditional food sources made an impact at the United Nations, said Jon Zuck, a staff member for the Bering Sea Fishermen's Association, a group representing 1,500 mostly native Alaska fishermen. The Alaska delegation sent a powerful message to delegates from Africa and other third-world areas dependent on Japanese financial aid but sympathetic to indigenous people's needs, Zuck said. Besides the interceptions of North America-bound fish, the monofilament drift nets, as long as 40 miles, have also been blamed for widespread deaths of entangled seabirds and marine mammals.

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