Commercial fishing for swordfish can be deadly for sea turtles that get hooked and often killed in the process. Turtles aren't the only unintended victims. Albatross, dolphins, whales, and sharks are often hooked and killed, too. The giant leatherback sea turtles, which currently cling to existence with shrinking numbers in the Pacific, are among the victims of greatest concern.
A major swordfish longline fishing fleet operates out of Hawai'i and ranges far and wide throughout the central Pacific, fishing the same waters where turtles travel. Federal regulations passed in 2004 tightened rules on how much the fleet could fish in an effort to reduce the bycatch of turtles.
In a move hard to comprehend, the federal government loosened these restrictions earlier this month, unleashing the fleet from any restrictions on the amount of fishing it can do, and upping the number of turtles it can catch before triggering a fishery shut-down.
Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff didn't take long to respond. He knows the issue well, having won the 2004 rule-tightening restrictions in a court victory. Achitoff found various instances in the new rules that run counter to existing federal law and wrapped his findings up in a court challenge filed in Honolulu. Hopefully a court will step in and help us bring these great creatures back from the brink.