Earthjustice files lawsuit to protect sea turtles, sharks, whales
Earthjustice filed suit today on behalf of the Conservation Council for Hawai‘i and native Hawaiian cultural practitioner Mike Nakachi seeking protection of a host of threatened and endangered Pacific Ocean species from harm.
The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the District of Hawaiʻi. The suit argues that the Fisheries Service is allowing Hawai‘i deep-set longline and American Samoa longline fishing operations to operate in the Western and Central Pacific without completing the legally-required evaluations of the fleets’ effects on threatened and endangered species. The suit is seeking protection from impacts for green sea turtles, olive ridley sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles, sperm whales, scalloped hammerhead sharks and the Main Hawaiian Island insular false killer whale.
“The Hawai‘i deep-set longline and American Samoa longline fisheries attempt to catch tuna and other far-ranging open ocean fish species by laying dozens of miles of baited hooks in the water. This indiscriminate fishing method catches, injures, and kills myriad species it is not meant to catch, including every species of sea turtle that roams the Pacific Ocean and numerous marine mammal and shark species,” the lawsuit alleges.
The federal Fisheries Service is charged with protecting endangered and threatened species.
According to Earthjustice, the Hawai‘i deep-set longline fishery has caught, injured, or killed more olive ridley, green, and loggerhead sea turtles every year since 2017 than its “incidental take” limits allow.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to go to court, but these long, hooked lines that aim to catch tuna are killing and maiming numerous creatures that make up our marine ecosystem,” said Mike Nakachi, a native Hawaiian cultural practitioner, diver, and educator. “They’re emptying our ocean of animals we used to see in great numbers—sharks, turtles, whales—and robbing us of our cultural heritage.”
The lawsuit asks the court to order the Fisheries Service to do the required evaluations to protect endangered and threatened species within 90 days.