POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 8, 2011
The federal government has settled a lawsuit filed by environmental groups over regulations protecting Pacific loggerhead sea turtles from the Hawaii-based longline swordfish fishery.
The settlement reinstates a limit of 17 on the number of loggerhead sea turtles the fishery is allowed to accidentally hook or entangle each year, both sides said yesterday.
This means longline boats must stop fishing for swordfish when 17 turtles are caught. The cap had been in place for five years until 2009, when the National Marine Fisheries Service raised the limit to 46.
The turtles are a migratory species that crisscross the Pacific.
The accidental snagging of the turtles by fishing gear, along with damage to their nesting areas, is such a threat to the reptile that the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had separately recommended last year that turtles be placed on the endangered species list.
"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 the listing for loggerheads should be changed from threatened to endangered," said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network, one of the groups that sued.