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EU slashes fish catches Friday, 15 December, 2000, BBC

Fishing fleets will be hard hit by the new quotas European Union fisheries ministers have agreed huge cuts in North Sea fishing quotas.

The agreement came early on Friday morning after 12 hours of talks.

"These are the most drastic cuts we've ever had since quotas were introduced," EU Farm and Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler said.

Ministers believed they had to take decisive action to stop once-common species such as cod and hake from dying out, but the fishing industry has been horrified.

"The plans would be utterly disastrous - there are so many vessels that are already barely economically viable," said Barry Deas, head of Britain's National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations.

British fishing industry representatives had warned that severe quotas in the North Sea could wipe out traditional fishing communities.

The EU ministers stuck to their planned quota for cod - reducing the catch by nearly half for 2001 - but the UK Fisheries Minister Elliot Morley negotiated less severe reductions for other species.

"This was an exceptionally difficult fisheries council, but with some stocks like North Sea cod on the verge of collapse, urgent action has to be taken and large cuts were inevitable," Mr Morley said.

The proposed Total Allowable Catch (Tac) for North Sea cod has been reduced to the proposed 48,600 tonnes, of which 17% percent goes to Norwegian trawlers.

But cuts in Tac for other species in the North Sea were limited to 10%, instead of the 20% originally planned by the European Commission.

North Sea cod numbers have been falling steadily since record-keeping began in 1963.

EU officials say there are now some 70,000 tonnes of adult cod in the area, far below 1970's level of 250,000, and about half the minimum that scientists say is needed to guarantee the survival of the species.

Elsewhere, the permitted catch for the northern hake stock, in waters north of the Bay of Biscay, will be cut from 42,000 to 22,600 tonnes. The commission's had proposed a reduction to just 11,000 tonnes.

Spanish Fisheries Minister Miguel Arias Canete, who fought to keep reductions to a minimum, said: "The scientific data shows that the situation is critical. Spain has tried to modify the efforts so the reduction is not so traumatic as to shut down the fleet."


According to EU figures, Scottish trawlers have recently managed to catch only around 60% of their annual North Sea cod quota, because there simply weren't any more fish.

But industry representatives said the deal was disastrous.

"We may have reduced the cuts in some areas but we came from an appalling starting point. The European Commission has ignored the science and the impact on industry," said Mr Deas.

Scottish Fisheries Minister Rhona Brankin had argued against the Commission's proposals for a 20% cut in prawn and haddock catches in the North Sea and off the West of Scotland.

The EU insisted that the scale of prawn and haddock cuts was necessary because cod was caught in the nets of prawn and haddock fishermen.

But Ms Brankin said: "We don't accept the scientific evidence about the cod bycatch."

Asian elephants 'cling to survival'
Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 03:24 GMT

Asia's elephants are engulfed by a tide of human pressures By environment correspondent Alex Kirby

Asian elephants are hard-pressed to withstand the increasing human pressures they face, conservationists say.

WWF, the global environment network, says the species is "clinging to survival", with drastically depleted numbers.

It identifies poaching for the ivory trade as one of the main threats to the elephants' wellbeing. And it believes developed countries should help the countries with elephants to conserve them properly.

In a report, Asian elephants in the wild, Elizabeth Kemf and Charles Santiapillai of WWF say the species numbers between 35,000 and 50,000 animals, about 10% of Africa's elephant population.

Human conflict

In 1997, Sri Lanka lost 126 elephants in clashes with humans, from an estimated total of about 4,000 animals.

"Most of the elephants are being squeezed into increasingly smaller woodland areas", Elizabeth Kemf said. "The elephant, a loveable animal for the world at large, has become a menace for many living in its territory."

The report says elephants are being forced out of the forests by logging, agricultural clearance and development schemes, and movements of human populations have led to fatal clashes.

Because forest clearance and farming disrupts their traditional migration routes, hungry elephants raiding crops kill hundreds of people annually, WWF says, with up to 300 deaths in India alone.

Domestic trade

In response, it says, the animals face being shot by farmers, poisoned by plantation workers, and killed for their meat, hides and tusks.

Elizabeth Kemf told BBC News Online: "When large numbers of people move into forested areas occupied by elephants and other species, the newcomers are not used to living with wildlife.

"So they find their crops and homes damaged, and their lives at risk. There is also a problem because of the domestic trade in ivory and other elephant products.

"The Asian elephant is listed on Appendix One of Cites, the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Law enforcement

"That means it can't be traded across frontiers. But there's nothing to stop elephant products being bought and sold within the countries where they live. The problem is enforcing the laws that exist, so that the elephants are protected properly.

"Cambodia and Vietnam are two countries where enforcement needs to be stepped up. The estimated number of elephants there has plummeted from what it was a decade ago - from 2,000 to 400 in Cambodia, and in Vietnam from more than 1,500 to under 150."

One report from Cambodia earlier this month said "dozens" of elephants were being killed by poachers, who were alleged to include soldiers, police and officials.

It said six elephants killed by poachers had been found in the Cardamom mountains. One conservationist said the species could be close to the minimum biologically viable population there.

Sex imbalance

WWF says richer governments "have a duty to give technical and financial aid to tackle some of these urgent problems".

It says ivory poaching (only the males have tusks) is severely affecting the sex ratio in some areas, especially in southern India, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The elephants' range originally extended from Syria and Iraq in the west to the Yellow River in China.

Now, WWF says, "it is only found from India to Vietnam, with a tiny besieged population in the extreme south-west of China's Yunnan province".

Moscow hosts caviar crisis talks 10 February, 2001, 00:26 BBC

Astrakhan is losing business to caviar poachers By Rob Parsons in Moscow

Fisheries experts from around the world are gathering in Moscow this weekend to discuss the future of the caviar industry, which is threatened by overfishing of sturgeon in the Caspian Sea.

The sturgeon is the fish that produces caviar eggs and the Caspian Sea is where most of them live.

The year 2000 was another bad year for caviar. The Caspian Sea used to teem with sturgeon, some of them weighing as much as 1,000kg - massive, prehistoric fish bursting with glittering black eggs.

These days even fish a quarter of that size are few and far between.

Dwindling stocks

Russia is the biggest producer among the Caspian Sea littoral states, but its catch last year was little more than 60 tonnes. Ten years ago a harvest of 1,000 tonnes was nothing out of the ordinary.

Part of the problem is co-ordination of policy and that is one reason why experts and officials from the Caspian states - Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan - together with others from as far afield as China, the United States and France, are gathering in Moscow.

Russia wants to impose an immediate moratorium on all fishing of sturgeon. Its stocks must revive, it says, or the sturgeon faces extinction.

Illegal loggers resort to violence mid 2000 BBC

Logging was a factor in the Mekong floods earlier this year By Owen Bennett-Jones in Hanoi

Illegal loggers in Vietnam are resorting to increasingly violent tactics.

Theoretically there are tight restrictions on logging in Vietnam, but poorly paid and ill-equipped forest rangers are finding it difficult to enforce the rules.

According to Vietnamese officials, the rangers face threats on a daily basis.

Vietnamese newspaper reports say many of those trying to cut down trees are well-organised, using mobile phones and weapons to outwit and intimidate the rangers.

Over the past three years there have been over 200 violent skirmishes between those trying to protect the forests and the illegal loggers.

Flooding is associated with deforestation

Tiny rewards

Some of those who are cutting down trees are poor farmers who consider the wood to be a legitimate cash crop.

Many of them work for tiny rewards.

One hardwood tree felled, cut into planks and delivered by raft to a market could fetch a farmer as little as $15.

But further down the chain the business is highly profitable and environmentalists believe that part of the problem is that vested interests in Vietnam protect some of those involved in the logging trade.

Despite all that, observers agree that the situation is far worse in neighbouring Cambodia and Laos.

The deforestation in all three countries is having a clear impact on the environment.

This year's flood in the Mekong Delta is partly explained by the fact that the loss of forest cover in the Mekong river basin means that less water is retained upstream.

'Weekly News Update on the Americas', Issue No. 574, 28 January 2001. Full details at the end of this message.


On the evening of Jan. 25 2001 some 1,200 Brazilian farmers and their supporters protested the use of genetically modified (GM) crops by occupying a biotech research center belonging to the US-based Monsanto corporation in Nao Me Toque ("Don't Touch Me") municipality in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. Hundreds of campesino families moved into the center's buildings, hanging hammocks, writing slogans on the walls and promising to stay "indefinitely." The next morning the protesters uprooted the center's soy and corn crops, burned soy that had been stored in warehouses, and held a burial ceremony for a coffin marked "Monsanto" and covered with a US flag.

Monsanto is the leading international producer and promoter of GM seeds. Many Brazilian growers oppose the use of GM crops, and Brazil is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that bans their commercial use, although it allows research. Rio Grande do Sul, governed by the leftist Workers Party (PT), is a center of opposition to GM crops, but laboratory tests indicate that 30% of the soy grown commercially in the state is GM, from seeds smuggled in from Argentina, where Monsanto is the source of 70% of GM soy.

Participants in the protest came from the Movement of People Harmed by Dams, the Small Growers Movement, the Women Workers Movement, the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) and the Rural Youth Ministry. A busload of supporters came from the World Social Forum, in session 300 km away in the state capital, Porto Alegre; they included Jose Bove, a leader of the French peasant movement, and the Honduran Rafael Alegria, president of Via Campesina, which claims 40 million members on five continents. "The people occupying [GM] factories are not ecologists; they are farmers," noted MST leader Joao Pedro Stedile. "It is not enough to have land; it also needs to be healthy land that will endure." Stedile said the protests against Monsanto will continue until "we put the company's directors in an airplane and send them back to the US." [Servicio Informativo "Alai-amlatina" (Agencia Latinoamericana de Informacion) 1/25/01, 1/28/01; CNN 1/26/00; CNN en Espanol 1/26/00 with info from Reuters; La Jornada (Mexico) 1/27/01; Financial Times (London) 1/27/01]

Weekly News Update on the Americas

ISSN#: 1084-922X. The Weekly News Update on the Americas is published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York. A one-year subscription (52 issues) is $25. To subscribe, send a check or money order for US $25 payable to Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012.

E-mail Appeal Kills Brazilian Congress Move to Expropriate Half the Amazon
Mass E-mail mid-2000

Brazilian congress is now voting on a project that will reduce the
amazon forest to 50% of its size. The area to be deforested is 4 times the size
of Portugal and would be mainly used for agriculture and pastures for live

All the wood is to be sold to international markets in the form of
woodchips, by multinational companies...

The truth is that the soil in the amazon forest is useless without the
forest itself. Its quality is very acidic and the region is prone to
constant floods. At this time more than 160.000 square kilometers
deforested with the same purpose, are abandoned and in the process of

We cannot let this happen. Copy the text into a new email, put your
complete name in the list below, and send to everyone you know. (Don't
just forward it cos then it will end up with rows of >>>'s )

If you are the 100th person to sign please send a copy to
[email protected]

Thank you.

01-Fernanda de Souza Saviolo - Rio de Janeiro - RJ - 18/06/83
02-Nara Maria de Souza - Rio de Janeiro - RJ - 11/08/50
03-Julio Cesar Fraga Viana - Rio de Janeiro - RJ - 01/01/54
04-Monica Grotkowsky Brotto -Sao Paulo - SP - 23/08/77
05-Mauricio Grotkowsky Brotto - S*o Paulo -SP 29/09/78
06-Ricardo A. Corrallo - SP 16/08/75
07-Sunny Jonathan - SP 18/10/1970
08-Leonardo Larsen Rocha - SC 23/01/1972
09-Evandro Sestrem - SC 26/06/1979
10-Marco Aurlio Wehrmeister - Blumenau - SC 18/06/1979
11-Angela Maria Gonalves - Blumenau -SC 25/07/1959

etc. ......

From: [email protected]
Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2000 17:03:40 EDT

Historic Victory for Brazilian Amazon
BRAZIL - The Environmental Defense Organization has announced that leaders
of Brazil's Congress have just shelved proposed legislation to increase the
area and rate of Amazon forest destruction, handing the Brazilian
environmental movement its first major and precident-setting victory in
protecting the rainforest. Representatives of powerful special interest
groups had pushed a draft law through a joint House/Senate Committee that
would have loosened restrictions on Amazon deforestation, and could have
caused a 25% increase in annual rates of clearing and burning.
Massive e-mail and fax protests to Congress and the President from all
over the world, and broad national media coverage killed the measure before
it could come to the House floor. At one point, government officials
blocked the massive flux of protest emails - but backed down when the move
was derided as censorship in the press. Press and TV coverage overwhelmingly
opposed the measure, as did the Environment Ministry.
The special interest caucus, which was pushing for passage of the law, has
some 200 votes in the Congress, and represents the 1% of the landowners who
control more than 50% of Brazil agricultural land (while 50% of the farmers
have only 3% of the land). The group has repeatedly used government-sponsored
legislation to support parochial, pork-barrel projects considered unseemly
even by the standards of the Brazilian Congress. These maneuvers have
yielded tens of billions in official debt forgiveness for the few largest
debtors while health care, education, and environment budgets suffered deep
cuts. So this "first victory" is particularly significant in Brazil, beyond
just helping to save the rainforest. According to Environmental Defense
senior scientist Stephan Schwartzman, "it is a victory over the inequality,
class privilege, and impunity that have plagued Brazil for 500 years. This
legislation represented a battle between the mentality of the 19th century
and the 21st, over the future of the Amazon. Its important that the 21st
won." For further information: Steve Schwartzman [email protected]

Growth of domesticated transgenic fish

A growth-hormone transgene boosts the size of wild but not domesticated trout. Nature Feb 15 2001

Growth rates of many fish species used in aquaculture are naturally slow, but are currently being enhanced by tradi-tional methods of domestication and selection. The efficiency of growth and feed-conversion can also be increased in finfish by creating transgenic fish that incorporate a gene construct encoding growth hormone, giving 3­11-fold gains in weight 2­5 . Here we examine growth enhancement due to trans-genesis in wild (slow-growing) and selected (fast-growing) commercial salmonid species relative to growth achieved in domesticated strains. We find that the growth response is strongly influenced by the intrinsic growth rate and genetic back-ground of the host strain, and that inserting growth-hormone transgenes into highly domesticated fish does not necessarily result in further growth enhancement. We microinjected rainbow-trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) eggs from a very slow-growing wild strain with a salmon gene construct overexpressing growth hor-mone (construct OnMTGH1). Like coho salmon, the transgenic trout grew much faster than non-transgenic sibling controls (Fig. 1a), achieving a 17.3-fold difference in weight by 14 months post-fertilization (non-transgenic: fish weight, 9.750.6 g; length, 9.350.1 cm; n4247; transgenic fish: weight, 167.6514.9 g; length, 24.250.9 cm; n440). The amount of growth enhancement was comparable (17.6-fold) in a first-generation (F1 ) family line established from these fish. However, the growth of transgenic wild-strain rainbow trout did not surpass that of a fast-growing non-transgenic domesticat-ed strain of trout used in aquaculture (Fig. 1a). We found that introducing the growth-hormone construct into this domestic strain (Fig. 1a) did not cause further growth enhancement (non-transgenic fish: weight, 269.455.9 g; length, 24.050.22 cm; n4151; transgenic fish: weight, 282.7526.2 g; length, 25.851.58 cm; n49). These results indicate that similar alterations of growth rate can be achieved both by selection and by transgenesis in rainbow trout, but that the effects are not always additive. Transgenic wild-strain rainbow trout retain the slender-body morphology of the wild-type strain (Fig. 1a), but their final size at sexual maturity can be affected by transgenesis (Fig. 1b), an observation that warrants concern. Domestic and wild-strain transgenic trout had reduced viabili-ty, and, in the case of the domestic strain, all transgenic animals died before sexual maturation. Cranial abnormalities detected in transgenic trout were not seen in domestic non-transgenic animals, suggesting that, unlike domestication, transgenesis can affect growth pathways outside the range supported by the homeostatic processes that maintain the fish's normal morphology and viability. Trout treated with exogenous growth-hormone protein show similar effects. The size of untreated wild-strain rainbow trout increased with a relatively slow weight-specific growth rate of 0.68% per day, whereas untreated domestic trout grew at more than three times this rate (Fig. 1c). The specific growth rates of hormone-

Figure 1 Effect of growth hormone in domestic and wild salmonids. a, Pairs of transgenic (top) and non-transgenic (bottom) rainbow trout produced from wild (left) and domesticated (right) strains reared at 8 °C. b, Mature wild-strain trout. Top to bottom: cultured transgenic female (14.2 kg), cultured transgenic male (8.2 kg), wild female (171 g), wild male (220 g). Scale bars represent 5 cm. c, Growth of domestic and wild rainbow trout strains injected intraperitoneally with 30 ml of a slow-release formulation (Posilac) of bovine growth hor-mone 8 . Mean specific growth rates for weight are shown on the right. All groups were significantly different by the end of the trial. d, Phenotype of growth-hormone-treated domestic and wild strains of rainbow trout. e, Weights (growth in fresh water to 263 days post-fertilization) of non-transgenic (green bars) and transgenic (blue bars) coho salmon in wild, domestic, and wild (F77)/domestic hybrid genetic backgrounds. Strain F77 has a wild genetic background. Statistically distinct groups are indicated by different letters over the bars.

treated wild-strain trout were enhanced 2.7-fold, whereas domestic trout displayed a much more modest increase of only 9%. Cranial abnormalities and silver body col-oration were also seen in only the hor-mone- treated animals from the domestic strain (Fig. 1d). The fact that domestic trout respond to the exogenous growth-hormone protein but not to OnMTGH1 transgenesis suggests that 'stronger' gene constructs could be effective, although they might be associated with a higher incidence of abnormalities. The effect of introducing a growth-hor-mone gene construct into fish to increase growth rates appears to be dependent on the degree to which earlier enhancement has been achieved by traditional genetic selec-tion. Such effects are likely to be specific for different species, strains and transgenes - in selected mice or in domesticated, rapidly growing farm animals, for example, growth-hormone transgenesis can have little effect on growth or it can induce pathological effects 9,10 , as we have seen in transgenic salmonids. Depending on the genetic and physio-logical basis, not all gains made by selection are likely to be epistatic to the effects of growth-hormone transgenesis, and some might actually prime metabolic pathways to respond to endocrine stimulation. In par- tially domesticated coho salmon strains, we have observed that domestication and the OnMTGH1 transgene can work synergisti-cally in hybrid strains to increase overall growth (Fig. 1e). In contrast, growth-hor-mone constructs that work well in salmon may not work as well in species that grow rapidly 4 . The phenotypic and genetic char-acter of the starting species or strain, as well as the strength of the gene construct, need to be considered when attempting to improve agricultural animal species. Robert H. Devlin, Carlo A. Biagi, Timothy Y. Yesaki, Duane E. Smailus, John C. Byatt* Fisheries and Oceans Canada, West Vancouver, British Columbia V7V 1N6, Canada *Monsanto Corporation, St Louis, Missouri 63198, USA 1. Hershberger, W. K. et al. Aquaculture 85, 1­4 (1990). 2. Du, S. J. et al. Bio/Technology 10, 176­180 (1992). 3. Devlin, R. H. et al. Nature 371, 209­210 (1994). 4. Rahman, M. A., Mak, R., Ayad, H., Smith, A. & Maclean, N. Transgen. Res. 7, 357­369 (1998). 5. Devlin, R. H. in Transgenic Animals: Generation and Use (ed. Houdebine, L. M.) 105­117 (Harwood Academic, Amsterdam, 1997). 6. Muir, W. M. & Howard, R. D. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 96, 13853­13856 (1999). 7. Devlin, R. H., Yesaki, T. Y., Donaldson, E. M. & Hew, C. L. Aquaculture 137, 161­169 (1995). 8. McLean, E. et al. Aquaculture 156, 113­128 (1997). 9. Pursel, V. G. et al. Science 244, 1281­1288 (1989). 10.Eisen, E. J., Murray, J. D. & Schmitt, T. J. J. Anim. Breed. Genet.

Copyright 2001 Southam Inc. The Gazette (Montreal) February 15, 2001 Thursday FINAL EDITION SECTION: NEWS, Pg. A16 LENGTH: 530 words HEADLINE: Genetically altered trout weigh more but look awful BYLINE: TOM SPEARS SOURCE: Ottawa Citizen DATELINE: OTTAWA

BODY: Fisheries and Oceans Canada has genetically engineered rainbow trout that weigh up to 14 kilograms - more than 31 pounds - but which also have misshaped skulls and a tendency to die young. With help from Monsanto Corp. of Missouri, which also raises genetically engineered crops, DFO took genes regulating growth hormones from salmon and inserted them in both wild and farmed rainbow trout.

The results have been mixed. The fish are meatier, but many do not survive to sexual maturity, an article published in today's edition of the British science journal Nature says. As well, they don't grow noticeably bigger than domestic rainbows that are bred through conventional methods to grow fatter than their wild cousins.

"Inserting growth-hormone transgenes into highly domesticated fish does not necessarily result in further growth enhancement," the team concludes. And it warns implanting genes from other species can cause unstable growth, shortening the fishes' lives. "We're pushing the fish beyond its normal capacity to deal with growth stimulation," said Bob Devlin, the lead DFO scientist on the project. The misshapen skull - more blunt than a normal fish, and with a slight dent in the top of the head - would probably affect its health, he said. The news is likely to reignite the debate over transgenic fish, coming just one week after an expert panel of scientists advised the federal government that transgenic salmon pose a potential danger to wild salmon stocks on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, especially if they escape to the ocean. These "super salmon" also have genes inserted in their DNA that increase their growth rate: they reach the same size as ordinary salmon but do so a year faster, which would save fish farmers money.

They are not yet approved for commercial farming in Canada.

"Our concerns are the same as with transgenic salmon," said Bill Taylor, president of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, an east coast conservation group. "Right away there's a brand-new predator with a ferocious appetite that has to eat something. "And if they're in a salmon river, they're going to eat juvenile salmon." Transgenic fish, like any farmed fish, may also spread diseases and parasites among wild fish, he added. He called for all transgenic-trout research to be done under quarantine conditions, in land-based labs, so that there's no chance of experimental fish escaping into a river.

The transgenic-trout experiment used two strains of rainbows - one a naturally slow-growing form from the wild, the other from a fish farm. In each group it implanted growth- hormone genes from salmon into some trout while leaving other group members with their original set of genes. The wild trout with these transgenes kept the long, slender shape of normal wild trout, the study says. One genetically modified female was 14.2 kilograms and a male was more than 8 kg, while trout from the same batch with normal genes weighed less than a quarter of a kilogram. Domestic trout with growth genes inserted all died before reaching maturity. As well, the deformed skulls were only found in fish with the salmon growth genes.


(Note ñ expert panel referred to in above article is the Canadian Royal Society. Their full report can be viewed at HYPERLINK where they recommend a moratorium on the "rearing of GM fish in aquatic netpens" (6.13 page xii).


Genetically Engineered Fish: Swimming Against the Tide of Reason

A background briefing prepared by Dr. Jan van Aken, January 2000

Greenpeace International Genetic Engineering Campaign Chausseestr. 131 - 10115 Berlin - Germany Phone: +49-30-308899-14 Fax: +49-30-308899-30 e-mail: HYPERLINK mailto:[email protected] [email protected]

Genetically Engineered Fish: Swimming Against the Tide of Reason

This briefing examines the development of genetically engineered (GE) fish, which could soon be produced on a commercial scale. It concludes that the physical containment of these fish cannot be guaranteed and any escapes into the environment could have devastating effects on wild fish populations and biodiversity.

Introduction Although GE fish for food purposes is not yet on the market, the first products could be ready for commercialisation by the year 2002 if regulatory approval is granted. Since the development of the first GE fish in the early 1990s , laboratory researchers and aquaculture companies have concentrated on genetically engineering fish that would grow faster and need less feed. Many research groups have successfully introduced growth hormone genes from human or animal sources into several fish species such as salmon, carp, trout, medaka and tilapia, causing them to grow several times faster than their natural counterparts.

Environmental risks Genetically engineering fish is a high risk technology with potentially disastrous consequences if the GE fish escape into the environment. Fish species used in aquaculture are very similar to wild fish and may survive and reproduce in the natural environmentand readily crossbreed with their wild relatives. Whenever a newly introduced gene enhances the mating success of a GE fish while at the same time decreasing the viability of the offspring, a few GE fish could ultimately cause the extinction of healthy, wild populations. This has recently been verified by researchers at the Purdue University in the USA who discovered that even a small number of growth-enhanced GE fish could eradicate a large population of wild fish . Stressing that body size is an important trait for mating success in many fish species, the researchers used computer models based on experimental research and revealed that, due to the mating advantage of growth-enhanced GE fish, the genetically engineered trait will be transferred to the natural population, but reduced offspring viability means that this ìTrojan geneî will eventually lead to extinction. There are other scenarios that highlight the global risks associated with the escape of GE fish into the environment. Since enhancing their growth rate increases their daily feed requirements, this could have a devastating effect on the natural environment, especially as most fish that are currently being engineered - e.g. salmon, trout, carp and tilapia - are predators. Past experience has shown that introducing large predatory species into new environments can lead to ecological disasters. In the 1960s, for instance, the Nile perch was introduced into Lake Victoria in Africa and, within a decade, the local population of over 400 different smaller fish species declined from 80% to 2% of the lakeís total fish stocks. Probably 50% of the native species disappeared from Lake Victoria because they were not able to cope with the new invader exhibiting its insatiable hunger. Similarly, the release of a growth (and hunger) enhanced salmon or carp into a natural environment could load a heavy burden on the native fish populations. Such fears have recently been fuelled by the findings of Canadian researchers who discovered that GE coho salmon were far more aggressive than natural salmon. Another trait that is currently being investigated by genetic engineers is tolerance to cold temperatures. This would enable GE fish to survive in areas from which they were previously excluded and compete with native species, therefore adding to the existing global problem in aquatic ecosystems caused by exotic invaders such as zebra mussels in the Great Lakes. In view of the potential for serious harm to arise, research into the possible effects of GE fish escaping into the environment is urgently needed and extreme caution should be exercised before considering any commercialisation approvals.

Inadequate safety measures

Some companies and researchers that are involved in the production of GE fish claim that the commercial use of their products would not harm the environment since the fish could be contained in land-based water tanks. They further argue that the GE fish could be sterilised and thus be unable to crossbreed with natural populations even if they were to escape into the environment. However, none of the safety measures that have so far been developed are adequate to safely contain GE fish and prevent accidental releases. Any open sea cultivation will lead to escapes, mistakes will happen, and there will be an economic incentive to circumvent safety measures.

Landlocked systems:

Once the production of GE fish becomes commercialised, it will be impossible to control the whereabouts of every single individual and assure compliance with appropriate containment measures. This lesson can be learned from experiences with GE crops, where mistakes have occurred and unapproved varieties have been illegally planted in several countries . Mistakes will also be made in the case of GE fish with batches being accidentally mixed and GE fish finding their way into open water. As GE fish are intended for use on a global scale, a reliable containment regime following commercialisation is just not conceivable. Furthermore, landlocked systems need specific safety measures to avoid accidental releases into the environment. Recently, the Environmental Risk Management Authority in New Zealand identified flaws in the safety system of the GE salmon tanks of the private company King Salmon where GE salmon eggs could have come into contact with sperm before escaping into the environment.Although there is no evidence that such an escape has yet occurred, this example highlights the difficulties in designing safety measures which are 100% effective. In addition, land-based water tanks with appropriate security measures (e.g. water sterilisation) are not cost effective and large scale aquaculture in sea pens is much more economical. Consequently, there will be a strong financial incentive for unscrupulous operators to put GE fish in sea pens. Experience with traditional aquaculture shows that any cultivation in the open sea cannot entirely prevent the escape of cultivated fish, however strong the net pens might be. In 1988, for instance, a storm tore apart the moorings and nets of hundreds of sea pens along the Norwegian coast, allowing a million farmed salmon to escape. No economically viable open sea system could cope with all - sometimes extreme - environmental conditions.


If all GE fish were sterile, those which escaped into the environment could neither transfer their genes into wild populations nor establish themselves in natural habitats. However, there are currently no techniques available that are able to guarantee 100% sterilisation of the target fish. The most common sterilisation technique involves manipulating the number of chromosome sets. While natural lines have two chromosome sets (diploid), fish with three chromosome sets (triploid) are sterile. Triploidisation of fish, e.g. through pressure-shocking fish eggs, is possible but it is not reliable enough to be used as a containment measure for GE fish since, with the current procedures, a certain percentage of the treated fish remains fertile. In order to be fully effective as a containment measure, sterilisation must ensure that every single GE fish is, and remains, sterile under all environmental conditions. A 99% reliability is not enough since, as the researchers at Purdue University concluded, even a single fertile GE fish could be sufficient to destroy a local population under certain circumstances. In the late 1980s, the companies involved in developing GE crops insisted that their products would be safely contained during field tests and that no contamination of the environment would occur. Several years later, when the first GE crops were commercialised, it became evident that any commercial use would mean unrestricted releases into the environment. It can be anticipated that the same will be true for GE fish.

Approaching commercialisation

Although traits such as cold tolerance, disease resistance and pollution detection are also being investigated, the majority of research and development work on GE fish is currently focused on growth enhancement and is being carried out in several countries around the world (e.g. in the USA , , , Canada , New Zealand, , Israel , Thailand , Taiwan , the UKand China ). The race to commercialise growth enhanced GE fish is currently being led by the Massachusetts-based US/Canadian company, A/F Protein Inc., which has engineered a growth enhanced Atlantic salmon containing a growth hormone gene from chinook salmon. This ìAquAdvantage salmonî, as it is called, grows 4 to 6 time faster than ordinary salmon and A/F also claims that it has a higher food conversion ratio and thus needs 25% less feed over the entire life cycle. Nearly 100,000 GE salmon and trout are already swimming in several hundred fibreglass tanks belonging to the A/F subsidiary, Aqua Bounty Farms, in the Canadian provinces of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and New Brunswick . The first eggs for commercial breeding could be available in 2000 and the first transgenic fish could be in the supermarkets from 2002. A/F Protein is waiting for regulatory approval in the USA, Canada and Chilealthough no formal regulation appears to exist in the two latter countries. It has also licensed the ësuper salmoní to fish-breeders in Scotland and New Zealand.A/F Protein has used the same technology to design growth enhanced flounder, trout, arctic char and tilapia. NOTEREF _Ref471718536 \h \* MERGEFORMAT 19 Other companies are also involved in the drive to commercialise GE fish and Kent SeaFarms in San Diego, USA, are working with a $1.8 million grant from the US Department of Commerce to develop GE fish that grow quicker, require less feed and are more disease resistant.Elsewhere in the world, King Salmon - the largest salmon producer in New Zealand - is known to be performing trials with growth enhanced GE salmon that also contains a gene from chinook salmon . In Cuba, a biologist from the Centro de Ingenieria Genetica y Biotecnologia recently told a German newspaper that they have already produced 30 tons of growth enhanced tilapia and that they are awaiting approval for commercial use in Cuba. It remains to be seen how the fish farming community will react to GE fish. According to a recent news report, the International Salmon Growers Association voted overwhelmingly in 1998 to shun GE fish NOTEREF _Ref471718536 \h \* MERGEFORMAT 19 and representatives of the US aquaculture community have been somewhat negative. This is perhaps not surprising since salmon is already in such worldwide overabundance that the wholesale price has sunk to $2 a pound from $6 in the last ten years.

Greenpeace demands

Genetic engineering of fish for commercial purposes should be prohibited, as should all associated research. Once approved for commercial use, GE fish may never be contained. Until this happens, each sovereign nation must take full responsibility for all research, development and releases of GE fish. Fish obey no boundaries and any releases into the environment must necessarily be considered as global releases. The Biosafety Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity should apply to all GE organisms, including those destined for contained use so that GE fish are subject to international controls. Each sovereign nation which imports GE fish must decide whether containment measures recommended by exporting nations provide adequate protection for the importing nationís biodiversity. This should not be decided by the exporter or exporting nation.

For more details on Greenpeace's comprehensive demands for the Biosafety Protocol, please refer to


Genetically engineered fish: Swimming against the tide of reason January 2000

Du S et al. (1992), BioTechnology 10:176-181 News Release, Minnesota Sea Grant Media Center, Safeguards proposed for genetically altered fish, Muir WM, Howard RD (1999) Possible ecological risks of transgenic organism release when transgenes affect mating success: sexual selection and the Trojan gene hypothesis. PNAS 96:13853-13856 National Post, September 4 1999, pB12: ëFrankenfish or salmon saviour?í by Sarah Schmidt In 1997, Monsanto mistakenly sold unapproved GE canola (oilseed rape) varieties in Canada and had to recall some 60,000 bags (enough for sowing 600,000 acres). Some fields where the unapproved varieties had already been sown had to be ploughed up. (The Western Producer, April 24 1997: Canola seed recalled because of genetic contamination; Reuters newswire April 17, 1997). In 1998, a test batch of Monsanto GE sugar beets was mistakenly sent to a Dutch refiner and mixed with normal sugar (Reuters newswire Dec. 3, 1998) The Dominion, Nov. 25, 1999: Concern at genetic salmon egg escape. Shelton WL, Reproductive manipulation of fishes: ecologically safe assessment of introductions.US-ARS, Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants, Program Abstract of Funded Research 1996. Devlin RH et al. (1994) Extraordinary salmon growth. Nature 371:209-210 Dr. Frank Sin at the University of Canterbury, Benzion Cavari at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, At the Aquatic Resources Research Institute of the Chulalongkorn University, At the Division of Cellular and Molecular Zoology of the Academia Sinica, E.g. by Prof. Norman Maclean of Southampton University, according to Times, May 26 1997: Gene-modified fish grow three times faster than normal Wu Chingjiang (1990) at the 3. Int. Symposium on genetics in aquaculture, Trondheim, June 20-24 1988 (in: Gjedrem T (ed) 1990, Genetics in Aquaculture III, Aquaculture vol. 85, pp 61-68) http:/; see also: Under the microscope: We can build super fish, but should we?, by Dan McGovern, May 1999, http:/ Christian Science Monitor: Designer fish flounder over legal hurdles. The Vancouver Sun, March 3, 1997 Under the microscope: We can build super fish, but should we?, by Dan McGovern, May 1999, AFP newswire April 6, 1999: Genetically manipulated salmon exposed in New Zealand Der Spiegel, July 5 1999, page 188


Trying to grow bigger farm animals by genetically engineering them to produce more growth hormone may be harder than we thought, say researchers in Canada. Animals that have been bred to grow fast have hit a metabolic glass ceiling, and any attempts to boost their growth further might only result in physical deformities, they say. Robert Devlin of Fisheries and Oceans Canada in West Vancouver and his colleagues wanted to find out whether domestication affected an animal's response to being genetically modified in this way. They decided to study fish, because they could easily get hold of both wild and domesticated strains. They started by engineering a slow-growing wild strain of rainbow trout. The transgenic trout grew much faster than their non-engineered siblings, and were over 17 times as heavy and over twice as long at 14 months of age.

Die young However, spectacular as this seems, the transgenic wild trout still lagged behind their domesticated counterparts - a strain bred for fast growth that is commonly used in aquaculture. When the team introduced the gene into the domesticated strain, they found that it had no effect on the fish's growth. Worryingly, both sets of engineered fish developed skull abnormalities, and the GM domesticated fish all died before reaching sexual maturity. "Genetic selection has pushed metabolic systems to their max already," says Devlin. Although growth hormone is in abundant supply, other factors are limiting growth. For instance, animals are finding it impossible to churn out enough proteins to continue growing healthily. Intriguingly, when Devlin and his team added the gene to a partly domesticated strain of salmon, it did result in extra growth. He suspects this is because the salmon strain had not yet reached its growth "plateau". Researchers tinkering with the metabolic pathways of different species and breeds will need to be careful. "Genetic background is a big issue," says Devlin, and scientists need to think twice before diving in with transgenes. "Ideally, the physiology should be done before the genetics."

Correspondence about this story should be directed to [email protected] 1900 GMT, 14 February 2001 Claire Ainsworth New Scientist Online News

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