Judge fair inlongline case

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.

Ezra’s hammerlike

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.

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