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The Honolulu Advertiser, December 17, 2009

Suit challenges longline rule changes
By Advertiser staff

Changes to longline fishery rules endanger the existence of loggerhead turtles, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday against the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The suit was filed in federal court on behalf of three conservation groups by Earthjustice, a public interest law group.

It claims that the Fisheries Service has relaxed rules governing the longline swordfish industry, allowing the fleet to catch nearly three times more loggerhead turtles than previously permitted.

Jim Milbury, spokesman for the Fisheries Service, said yesterday the agency had not seen the complaint and could not comment on it.

Andrea Treece, an attorney for one of the plaintiffs, said yesterday, "The Fisheries Service has admitted that loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific face a significant risk of extinction unless we reduce the number of turtles killed by commercial fisheries."

The new rule means that the agency "is proposing measures that would actually increase the number of turtles killed," Treece said.

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Photo © Paul S. Hamilton