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The Conservation Council for Hawaii has sued the National Marine Fisheries Service for delaying consultations meant to ensure that fisheries are properly managing incidental catch species, including several endangered sea turtle, whale, and shark species. The longline fisheries, which primarily target tuna, use miles-long mainlines with baited hooks extending vertically into the water but have no way to exclude non-target marine animals, luring in and eventually killing hundreds of species, including endangered ones.

Source: Washington Post/Youtube

The plaintiffs claim that the fisheries have been exceeding their incidental take limits for nearly nine years, in violation of the Endangered Species Act. They argue that the Fisheries Service has not completed the consultations necessary to keep protected species from being caught as incidental take by tuna fisheries.

This longline fishing gear also affects critical habitats for the scalloped hammerhead shark, sperm whale, and Main Hawaiian Island insular false killer whale, all of which are either endangered or threatened. The Conservation Council claims that the Hawaii fishery has killed nearly twice the number of turtles through 2017-2019 than its limits should allow for.

Aside from environmental concerns, sea turtles, sharks, and whales, all occupy important spaces in Native Hawaiian cultural and spiritual practices. These species are a key element to the health of the ocean ecosystem at large and continued abuse of these species will adversely affect their habitat to unfixable levels, as the species are at particular risk for extinction.

The plaintiffs want a judge to order the agency to complete the required consultations and publish the final biological reports within 90 days, and to declare that the fisheries service has violated the Endangered Species Act. This lawsuit highlights the importance of enforcing environmental regulations and ensuring that protected species are not harmed in the process of fishing.

We can all take action by supporting organizations that advocate for the protection of endangered species and their habitats. We can also reduce our consumption of fish and seafood, opt for sustainably caught seafood, and call on lawmakers to prioritize the protection of the environment and the Conservation of endangered species. By taking action, we can work towards creating a more just and sustainable future for all.

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