US appeals court: Feds erred in Hawaii fishery expansion

HONOLULU — A U.S. appeals court says federal agencies erred in allowing expansion of Hawaii’s longline swordfish industry because it harmed endangered loggerhead turtles.

A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled the National Marine Fisheries Service failed to consider scientific data that the loggerhead turtle population would significantly decline when it set limits for the industry.

Judges also say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed the industry to kill protected migratory birds.

Swordfish longline fishing involves hundreds of baited hooks on miles of line. The practice can ensnare birds, turtles and other marine life.

Two conservation groups in a 2012 lawsuit challenged the rule that doubled limits on how many endangered sea turtles Hawaii’s longline swordfish fishery can accidentally hook.

The 9th Circuit panel affirmed a decision saying another endangered species, leatherback turtles, wouldn’t be jeopardized.

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