Maui News

Appeals Court Rules in Case Involving “Take” of Protected Sea Turtles, Birds

December 28, 2017, 11:55 AM HST
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Loggerhead sea turtle. PC: Brian Gratwicke / Flickr

A federal appeals court has issued a ruling in a case involving longline fishing and impacts on protected seabirds and endangered loggerhead sea turtles.

The court found that there was a failure by the National Marine Fisheries Service to properly analyze the Hawaiʻi-based swordfish longline fishery’s impacts on the endangered loggerhead sea turtles before permitting an expansion of that fishery in 2012.  The court also found that there were violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which resulted in the allowed “take” of albatrosses and other protected seabirds in the course of longline fishing operations.

The Center for Biological Diversity, which was a party in the lawsuit, notes: “the ruling refutes the Trump administration’s new opinion that the Act does not prohibit incidental killing of migratory birds by the energy and fishing industries.”

The lawsuit was filed by the environmental law firm Earthjustice on behalf of Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Center for Biological Diversity, after the National Marine Fisheries Service allowed the fishery to double the number of sea turtles it hooks or entangles.

Representatives with the Center for Biological Diversity say “Hawaiʻi’s swordfish industry uses longlines up to 60 miles long, with nearly 1,000 baited hooks, that often catch endangered leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles, as well as protected migratory birds such as black-footed and Laysan albatrosses.”


“Both the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, which are supposed to be protecting our wildlife, have instead been illegally helping the longliners push them to the brink of extinction,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff.


“Sea turtles could go extinct if these deadly longlines aren’t better regulated. We’re happy to see the court reject the reckless expansion of this fishery’s lethal impact on sea turtles and seabirds,” said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

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