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Government Pulls Permit For Experimental Longline Swordfish Fishery

All species of sea turtles in the world's oceans are in peril of extinction. The causes are many: outright killing for meat and shells, habitat destruction, and incidental killing as a byproduct of trawling for shrimp and longlining for swordfish, tuna, and other species. To tackle the longlining problem, attorney Paul Achitoff sued the National Marine Fisheries Service, which banned swordfish longlining out of Hawai'i. Then, in early 2002, the agency issued a permit that would allow the swordfish longliners to try an experiment: half their hooks would be set in the usual way, which is known to kill turtles. The other half would be set with the bait dyed blue, differently shaped hooks, and camouflaged gear. The agency conceded that the experiment would likely contribute to the extinction of one or more species, but proceeded to issue the permit anyway. Achitoff went back to court on behalf of The Ocean Conservancy, Turtle Island Restoration Network, and Center for Biological Diversity. The district court refused to block the permit even though acknowledging a likely violation of law. Achitoff appealed and the government withdrew the permit, agreeing to conduct a full environmental impact study as the conservationists had demanded.