Endangered Sea Turtles Saved From Capture in Hawaii Swordfish Fishery

For Immediate Release

Environmental Groups
Contact: 

Todd Steiner, Turtle Island Restoration Network, (415) 663-8590 x 103, or Teri Shore, Turtle Island Restoration Network, (415) 663-8590 x 104
Paul Achitoff, Earthjustice, (808) 599-2436
Marti Townsend, KAHEA, (808) 372-1314
Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 308

Endangered Sea Turtles Saved From Capture in Hawaii Swordfish Fishery

Settlement Means Fewer Loggerheads Will Be Hooked by Deadly Longlines

HONOLULU - Fewer rare sea turtles will die on the swordfish industry's longlines
in Hawaii under an agreement between environmental groups and the
government that settles a lawsuit challenging the feds' plans to
dramatically increase the number of turtles that could be killed. The
Turtle Island Restoration Network, Center for Biological Diversity, and
KAHEA sued the National Marine Fisheries Service for allowing 46
imperiled Pacific loggerhead turtles to be hooked last year; the new
court-ordered settlement caps the number at 17 per year. Meanwhile the
Fisheries Service is weighing whether loggerheads need more protection
under the Endangered Species Act.

Click here to download the settlement agreement summary.

Click here to download the complete legal settlement order.

"It
made absolutely no sense to have one arm of the Fisheries Service
increasing the lethal capture of loggerheads, while the other arm is in
the process of determining whether loggerheads should be uplisted
from threatened to endangered," said Todd Steiner, biologist and
executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. "With
extinction looming, these animals need more protection, not less."

"With
this decision, Hawaii's public-trust ocean resources can be better
managed for our collective best interest, and not just the interests of
this commercial fishery," said KAHEA program director Marti Townsend.
"This is a victory not just for the turtles, but for Hawaii's people who
rely on a healthy, functioning ocean ecosystem."  

Conservation groups represented by Earthjustice
filed a federal lawsuit challenging a 2009 rule allowing the swordfish
fleet to catch nearly three times as many loggerhead sea turtles as
previously permitted. This settlement freezes the number at the previous
cap of 17 while the government conducts additional environmental
studies and decides whether or not to classify the loggerhead as
endangered, rather than its current, less-protective status of
threatened. For leatherback turtles, the bycatch limit remains at 16 per year. In 2010, eight Pacific leatherbacks and seven loggerheads were been caught in the longline
fishery, according to the Fisheries Service. There have already been 4
loggerheads captured in 2011, which has sea turtle conservationists
concerned.

"Sea turtles have been swimming the oceans since the
time of dinosaurs. But without a change in management, they won't
survive our voracious quest for swordfish and tuna," said Miyoko
Sakashita, oceans director at the Center. "If loggerheads are going to
survive in the North Pacific, we need to stop killing them in our
fisheries."

"Pacific loggerhead sea turtles are nearly extinct, so this bycatch
rollback helps right a serious wrong," said Teri Shore, program
director at Turtle Island Restoration Network. "We can't allow these
rare sea turtles to disappear for a plate of swordfish. It's tragic that
it took a lawsuit to correct this fishery problem."

Swordfish longline
vessels trail up to 60 miles of fishing line suspended in the water
with floats, with as many as 1,000 baited hooks deployed at regular
intervals. Sea turtles become hooked while trying to take bait or become
entangled while swimming through the nearly invisible lines. These
encounters can drown the turtles or leave them with serious injuries.
Sea birds such as albatross dive for the bait and become hooked; marine
mammals, including endangered humpback whales and false killer whales,
also sometimes become hooked when they swim through the floating lines.

###

Turtle Island Restoration Network is a nonprofit environmental organization committed to the study, protection, enhancement, conservation, and preservation of the marine environment and the wildlife that lives within it. TIRN has approximately 30,000 members, many of whom reside in the state of Hawaii, and has offices in the United States and Costa Rica.

KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance is a community-based organization working to improve the quality of life for Hawaii's people and future generations through the revitalization and protection of Hawaii's unique natural and cultural resources. We advocate for the proper stewardship of our resources and for social responsibility by promoting multi-cultural understanding and environmental justice.

Earthjustice is a nonprofit, public-interest, environmental law firm. The Mid-Pacific office opened in Honolulu in 1988 and has represented dozens of environmental, native Hawaiian, and community organizations. Earthjustice is the only nonprofit environmental law firm in Hawaii and the Mid-Pacific, and does not charge clients for its services.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

 

More in: