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Tuesday, September 19, 2000


20 new observers
join longline fleet

More are being trained by
federal order to protect
endangered sea turtles

By Leila Fujimori

The National Marine Fisheries Service began deploying 20 new observers on longline fishing boats in Hawaii yesterday in compliance with a federal court order, the head of its observer program said.

On Aug. 3, U.S. District Judge David Ezra ordered that within a month and a half, 10 percent of all tuna longline fishing boats be manned by federally trained observers in order to protect endangered sea turtles.

"We're going to be able to meet that requirement for the first 10 percent," said John Kelly, resource management specialist who heads the program.

Kelly said the program rushed to complete training of 20 observers last Friday and next month will train another 20.

Ezra set a Nov. 7 deadline to increase that requirement to 20 percent.

Kelly said 115 boats have limited-entry longline permits, but only about 60 to 80 boats are out on the fishing grounds at any one time.

Swordfishing longliners must all be manned with observers, however.

Boats must check in with the National Marine Fisheries Service before going out to see if an observer will accompany them.

"We will not diminish this fishery," Kelly said. "People will be able to go out. We will not need to hold any boats back."

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