Judge Approves Settlement To Protect Atlantic White Marlin From Longline Fishing
Ruling Requires Bush Administration To Re-Examine Whether Species Warrants Protections Under The Endangered Species Act
Washington, D.C. A federal judge this month approved a settlement agreement between environmental organizations, sportfishing representatives, and the National Marine Fisheries Service designed to protect the Atlantic white marlin from longline fishing. The settlement, approved over the objections of the longling fishing industry, resolves a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network against the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”), an agency within the Department of Commerce charged with managing fisheries and protecting marine species under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).
The lawsuit sought to overturn a previous determination by NMFS that protecting the Atlantic white marlin under the ESA was “not warranted.” The agency had reached this conclusion despite the findings of its own scientists that current harvest levels are unsustainable and that, even under the most optimistic management scenarios, the species would continue to decline to dangerously low levels.
The settlement requires NMFS to conduct various analyses of the affects of longline fishing on the white marlin and make a new finding by the end of 2007 as to whether the species warrants the protections of the ESA.
NMFS is currently amending its fishery management plan for highly migratory species such as marlin, swordfish, tuna and sharks. The settlement requires NMFS to analyze as part of this plan amendment process whether closing five areas along the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico to longline fishing would reduce white marlin bycatch and mortality. “Absent major changes in the fishery management plan, the decline of white marlin will continue and ESA listing for the species will be inevitable,” said Brendan Cummings, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “NMFS has the opportunity in the next few months to make the right management decisions that will truly protect the white marlin.”
In addition to its impact on white marlin, longline fishing entangles and kills numerous other rare and vulnerable species. “Longline fishing is not just bad for white marlin, but also for sea turtles, sea birds and marine mammals, all of which are unnecessarily killed by this destructive fishing gear,” said Todd Steiner, Executive Director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network.
A copy of the original petition to list the white marlin under the ESA, as well as additional information on the status of the species can be found at www.BigMarineFish.com. A copy of the settlement agreement and the judge’s order entering the settlement can be found at www.biologicaldiversity.org.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of imperiled marine and terrestrial species through science, policy, education and law. The Center has over 15,000 members and maintains offices throughout the western United States. www.biologicaldiversity.org.
Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) is an international non-profit environmental organization committed to the study, protection, enhancement, conservation, and preservation of the marine environment and marine wildlife species. www.SeaTurtles.org and www.SpawnUSA.org . TIRN is headquartered in Forest Knolls, CA and has offices in Texas and Costa Rica.