Thursday, October 21, 1999

Marine study would
reel in long-line fishing

By Mary Adamski


Long-line fishing boats have been operating in Hawaiian waters for 10 years and a federal judge said it's about time an environmental impact study is done about their effect on protected turtles and other marine life.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra ruled this week that the National Marine Fisheries Service and other federal authorities violated the National Environmental Policy Act.

Ezra said Monday that an injunction against long-line fishing is warranted while the environmental impact assessment is under way, according to a release from Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund.

The two sides are conferring to discuss the terms of an injunction before Ezra issues a final order, the news release said.

"We're pleased that the court is putting the brakes on a fishery that has been operating in disregard of environmental laws and killing endangered turtles on a regular basis," said plaintiffs' attorney Paul Achitoff.

Earthjustice brought suit in February to stop the fishing boats from killing endangered turtle species, leatherback and olive ridleys, and loggerhead turtles which are on the U.S. protected species list.

About 100 long-line boats fish in the Pacific for swordfish and tuna using monofilament lines up to 30 miles long carrying thousands of hooks. Thousands of seabirds and sharks as well as turtles get entangled in the lines, according to Earthjustice.

The suit also named the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Secretary of Commerce William Daley.

Joining in the suit were the Sea Turtle Restoration Project of Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Center for Marine Conservation.

Achitoff said the plaintiffs demand that federal agencies examine the environmental impacts and disclose them to the public.

"It's appropriate that an injunction be in place while the defendants go back and do the evaluations they should have done in the first place," Achitoff said.

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