Environmental groups file federal suit to stop California longline fishery

Two environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday, 6 June, claiming it used a “backdoor maneuver” to permit a new longline fishery off the California coast.

In a statement, the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network said NOAA Fisheries did not comply with the Endangered Species Act when it approved the longline fishery last month. The fishery will consist of two fishing vessels utilizing lines with numerous hooks that stretch for miles to catch tuna and swordfish.

The groups fear endangered species such as Pacific leatherback turtles will end up caught in some of the hooks and potentially die from the interaction. Scientists believe those leatherbacks could become extinct within two decades.

“The failure of the Fisheries Service to comply with environmental laws in issuing the Permit diminishes leatherback sea turtles’ slim chance to defy predictions of extinction,” the complaint, filed in the Northern District of California, states.

Officials issued the permit even though NOAA Fisheries banned longlines 15 years ago. 

“This is basically the same fishery the agency outlawed 15 years ago, and the same agency is using a backdoor maneuver to get the fishery reopened,” Turtle Island Restoration Network Executive Director Todd Steiner said in a statement.

Last month, the California Pelagic Fisheries Association issued a statement heralding NOAA Fisheries’ move, claiming stocks of swordfish and tuna are abundant in the federal waters, and the permit would help America curb its seafood trade deficit.

“NOAA’s decision is a huge win for American fisheries, fishermen and ultimately, the environment,” said Dave Rudie, owner of Catalina Offshore Products and President of the California Pelagic Fisheries Association. “It will greatly benefit San Diego and southern California and our consumers as well.”

The permit prohibits fishing within 50 miles of the coastline or any offshore island. NOAA Fisheries also requires the vessels to use a variety of mitigation techniques to limit interaction with turtles, birds, and marine mammals.


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