US faces lawsuit over 'violating' tuna quota
Environmental groups are suing the US fisheries service over a new rule they say allows the doubling of the quota for the endangered bigeye tuna.
Environmental groups are suing the US fisheries service over a new rule that they say allows the doubling of the fishing quota of the endangered bigeye tuna.
A not-for-profit law firm representing the groups, Earthjustice, says lifting catch limits for Hawai'i-based fishing fleet violates US commitments under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention.
Earthjustice lawyer, David Henkin, who is based in Hawai'i, spoke to Amelia Langford about why the firm is taking legal action.
DAVID HENKIN:There is really no question but that big eye tuna in the Western and Central Pacific is in trouble and the only way we are going to get it out of trouble is if every country that fishes for big eye agrees to reasonable reductions in their big eye catch. So unfortunately what our national fisheries service has just done is blatantly violate our international agreements. Under an agreement that was entered just a year ago the United States said that it would cap long line fishing by all US flagged vessels to 3,763 metric tonnes for this year. What the fisheries service has done is fabricated, invented out of old cloth additional 2,000 metric tonne quotas for each of 3 United States Pacific territories, none of what actually fish extensively for big eye, so this 2,000 metric tonnes bears no relation to the world in which we live. But they have created these additional quotas and said that each of the territories can transfer 1,000 metric tonnes to the Hawaii based long line fishing industry, in other words nearly doubling the American quota. This is very irresponsible and it is bad policy because you can't negotiate international agreements and have any credibility if you are then going to ignore the limits that have been imposed and bad policy because there are not going to be enough fish left if everyone acts this way.
AMELIA LANGFORD: So essentially are they exploiting a loophole in the legislation?
DH: No they are inventing a loop hole. The latest conservation measures under this international agreement are very clear - that the quota is for any vessel with a US flag for the long lone fishing vessels in the territories as well as Hawaii. So there is no additional quota for the territories as there was in the past. There used to be but this is a conservation measure that says all US flagged vessels are limited to this quota.
AL: And are you optimistic that this lawsuit will be successful?
DH: Well we think that the violation of law is pretty blatant. What we are, we are hopeful that we don't need to prosecute it conclusion and that the United States will start living up to its international obligations.
Earthjustice is representing the Conservation Council for Hawai'i, Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Center for Biological Diversity in the lawsuit.
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