A judge who has the longline fishing industry by the back of its neck is
showing admirable judicial temperament by agreeing to mediate a settlement
between fishing and environmental interests.
In June, U.S. District Judge
David Ezra ordered limits on the $155 million-a-year industry, including
federal observers on every Hawaii-based longline boat. His ruling, which is in
effect until the National Marine Fisheries Service completes a study of
environmental impacts of longlining, was a response to an environmental
advocacy group’s lawsuit alleging longline fishing in Hawaii endangers
leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley sea turtles.
ruling, followed by his aggressive comment that unregulated longline fishing by
American boats “will never happen again in the Pacific,” have brought a
predictable response from the industry. Fishermen and their representatives in
court said the industry will lose about $45 million, a price they call too high
compared to what they say is a relatively small benefit for turtles. The
industry also launched a public relations campaign, including television and
newspaper advertising, and staged a rally of 300 fishermen and their families
outside the federal courthouse in Honolulu.
Unfazed and sounding dogmatic,
Ezra is standing his ground. But he’s showing he’s a hard judge but a fair one.
He said this week he would meet privately over the next two weeks with
attorneys for the Hawaii Longline Association and the fisheries service to
discuss possible compromises that would soften the economic impact of his
ruling but protect endangered turtles.
Judges who lay down the law and make
it equitable at the same time are the best kind.