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Action Timeline

May 2, 2001 – The Center and Turtle Island Restoration Network, represented by Earthjustice, filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service over the relocation of a fleet of longline fishing vessels to California. The longline vessels were relocated to avoid a judge’s decision to enforce protections for the leatherback sea turtle.

December 2005 – A federal judge 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.

June 11, 2007 – Under pressure from scientists and conservation groups, including the Center, the National Marine Fisheries Service denied a proposal to allow drift gillnet vessels to operate in an area off the California and Oregon coasts where such fishing is seasonally banned to protect the critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle.

July 9, 2007 – Responding to concerns raised by the Center, the California Coastal Commission put the brakes on approval of a proposed fishing permit that would have allowed longline fishing within critical foraging habitat for the Pacific leatherback sea turtle. The Center and other groups continued to oppose opening this crucial area to longlining, and permit application was eventually withdrawn.

March 4, 2008 – The Center and Turtle Island Restoration Network formally petitioned the U.S. government to enforce the Marine Mammal Protection Act and impose a ban on imported swordfish until exporting countries provide proof that their fishing practices are at least as protective of marine mammals as those used by U.S. commercial fishers.

March 17, 2009 – The Center, Turtle Island Restoration Network, and Hui Malama i Kohola, represented by Earthjustice, filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to come up with a plan to protect false killer whales from injury and death in the Hawaii-based longline fishery.

April 4, 2009 – Heeding calls by the Center and other ocean conservation groups, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted not to open the high seas off the West Coast to shallow-set longline fishing. 

April 15, 2009 – The Center, Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, and a coalition of other conservation groups sued the National Marine Fisheries Service to force action quickly to protect threatened and endangered sea turtles from death and injury in the Gulf of Mexico bottom longline fishery.

May 1, 2009 – Following our April 15 suit, the National Marine Fisheries Service ordered a six-month emergency closure of the bottom longline fishery in the Gulf of Mexico to protect imperiled sea turtles from capture and death.

December 16, 2009 – The Center, Turtle Island Restoration Network and KAHEA, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit challenging a Fisheries Service rule that allows Hawaii’s longline fishery to catch nearly three times as many loggerheads as was previously permitted.

January 19, 2010 – The National Marine Fisheries Service announced it would form a “take reduction team” to protect false killer whales from longline fishing off Hawaii.

April 30, 2010 – The Fisheries Service announced it would develop regulations aimed at banning imports of seafood from countries that fail to adequately protect marine mammals from being captured and killed by fisheries.

July 14, 2010 – The Center and Turtle Island Restoration Network, represented by Stanford Law Clinic, petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to extend the seasonal closure of the gulf shrimp fishery for the sake of endangered sea turtles, pending an analysis of the fishery’s environmental impact.

August 17, 2010 – The Fisheries Service announced it would examine whether shrimp trawling in the southeast United States, including the Gulf of Mexico, was jeopardizing threatened and endangered sea turtle populations.

March 3, 2012 – The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to pursue the expansion of California’s devastating drift gillnet fishery for swordfish and sharks into an area currently off-limits to that fishing to protect critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles.

May 18, 2012 – The National Marine Fisheries Service proposed new protections for sea turtles that would require escape hatches in shrimp nets used by boats that operate in the shallow, inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico and southeast Atlantic Ocean.

September 6, 2012 – The Center and Oceana filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government under the Endangered Species Act for authorizing California’s drift gillnet fishery, which had killed alarming numbers of endangered sperm whales, endangered leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles and other creatures in recent years.

October 17, 2012 – The National Marine Fisheries Service settled a court case with the Center by pledging to finalize and implement protections for false killer whales by Nov. 30, 2012.

October 24, 2012 – Citizens and conservation groups took legal action to require the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources to protect Hawaii’s reefs and coastal areas from unlimited collection of fish and other wildlife for the aquarium trade.

October 16, 2012 – The Center and Turtle Island Restoration Network, represented by Earthjustice settled a court case yesterday with the National Marine Fisheries Service requiring the agency to finalize and implement protections for false killer whales by November 30, 2012. False killer whales(actually large dolphins) have suffered unsustainable levels of death and serious injury in Hawaii-based longline fisheries. 

November 2, 2012 – The Center and Turtle Island Restoration Network, represented by Earthjustice, filed suit challenging a new rule by the National Marine Fisheries Service that doubled the number of endangered loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles allowed to be entangled and killed by Hawaii’s longline swordfish fishery.

November 2012 – The Fisheries Service backed out of finalizing its May 2012 proposed rule to protect imperiled sea turtles from drowning in shrimp nets in the Gulf of Mexico and southeast Atlantic Ocean.

July 22, 2013 – The National Marine Fisheries Service declined to issue a required marine mammal “take” permit for California’s swordfish drift gillnet fishery in light of the recent entanglement of two sperm whales, but agreed to call a special meeting the next week to discuss possible emergency measures to allow the fishery to continue operating legally while reducing interactions with these endangered whales.

September 11, 2013 – Mexico faced the threat of a trade embargo from the United States for failing to protect endangered North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles from getting entangled in fishing gear off the Baja California’s Gulf of Ulloa. 

September 10, 2014  The National Marine Fisheries Service released new data showing that the California-based drift gillnet fishery targeting swordfish killed an estimated 53 marine mammals from May 2013 through January 2014. 

Photo courtesy of NOAA