Saturday, October 19, 2013

Email from EarthJustice ~ October 19.2013
Dear Heidi,

We just won another huge victory for whales and other marine mammals and we wanted to share in case you missed the news!

In response to an Earthjustice lawsuit, a federal court just ruled that the government must better protect endangered whales and other marine mammals from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises along the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington by employing the best available science.


The sound level that whales and other marine mammals experience during the Navy's mid-frequency sonar training can disrupt migration, breeding, nursing, breathing, and feeding, and in some cases, cause internal hemorrhaging and ruptured eardrums.

Earthjustice sued in court to protect whales and other marine mammals from these dangerous training exercises--and we won!

According to Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda, who led the effort:

"This is a victory for dozens of protected species of marine mammals, including critically endangered southern resident orcas, blue whales, humpback whales, dolphins, and porpoises.The National Marine Fisheries Service must now employ the best science and require the Navy to take reasonable and effective actions to avoid and minimize harm from its training activities."

Earthjustice has been fighting for the protection of marine wildlife for years, but our work to safeguard our ocean ecosystems and the species that depend on them is far from over.

Heidi, because helped us win a victory to protect northwest orcas earlier this year, I also wanted to encourage you to take action to protect other imperiled marine species--including Atlantic bluefin tuna, sharks, and sea turtles--from being unnecessarily slaughtered by longline fishing.

We couldn't do our work, and win, without you!


Steve Mashuda
Attorney, Earthjustice

P.S. Earthjustice has been working tirelessly to protect our oceans, but we need your help. Tell the National Marine Fisheries Service to improve its management plan for fisheries that unnecessarily harm bluefin tuna and other imperiled species.


Below is the petition authoring and background on damage caused by longline vessels:


Action: Public Comments
Issue: Bluefin Tuna
Deadline: Dec. 10, 2013 Proposed Rule

Speak Up To Protect Bluefin Tuna

Atlantic bluefin tuna are one of the ocean’s most impressive predators. Weighing as much as 1,500 pounds, these giants can still accelerate faster than a sports car. But they haven’t been able to outswim commercial fishing pressure.

Unfortunately, bluefin tuna are being harmed by Atlantic longline vessels that snag the fish while trying to catch swordfish and other tuna species. Bluefin cannot withstand this assault. Their numbers are so low that they have been considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The waste is not limited to bluefin tuna. Pelagic longlines injure and kill high numbers of billfish, sharks, sea turtles, whales, and other animals every year in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. This doesn’t have to happen. Better types of fishing gear are now available to target swordfish, and prohibitions on fishing in ecologically critical areas are a proven method to protect multiple species from fishing impacts.
Tell the government to improve its management plan for fisheries that unnecessarily harm this and other imperiled species.
Earthjustice has fought for years to protect bluefin tuna spawning grounds in the Gulf and reduce the death toll of pelagic longline fisheries. Most recently, Earthjustice has partnered with conservation groups and others concerned about the fate of bluefin tuna to identify ways to better protect these amazing fish.
NMFS’s proposed rule takes some important steps towards conserving and rebuilding bluefin tuna. However, more remains to be done to protect bluefin tuna, as well as the many other species that get snared by pelagic longline vessels.
Please tell NMFS to take the necessary actions to end bluefin tuna overfishing, encourage a transition to safer fishing methods, and protect other species like sharks, sea turtles, and marine mammals from unnecessary harm.
TAKE ACTION TODAY: Make your voice heard! To send your letter, enter your information below and click on the "Send Message" button.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON PRIVACY: This is an official government request for public comments. All information submitted with your comment (name, address, etc.) may be placed in the public record for this proceeding. Do NOT submit confidential or sensitive information. To submit an anonymous comment, visit and enter "Anonymous" in the name fields.

Comments on Amendment 7 to the HMS FMP

Dear National Marine Fisheries Service,

I encourage the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to adopt strong measures in proposed Amendment 7 to the Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan in order to conserve and rebuild Atlantic bluefin tuna, as well as protect the many other species of fish and wildlife that are injured or killed by encounters with pelagic longline gear. 

Atlantic bluefin tuna have been fished to dangerously low levels. Strong measures are necessary to end overfishing of bluefin tuna and put the species on the path to recovery. Protecting spawning grounds and other areas where bluefin congregate is critical to achieving these requirements. Therefore, I request that NMFS adopt a final rule prohibiting all pelagic longline fishing in the entire Gulf of Mexico Exclusive Economic Zone during the entire bluefin spawning period, and in the Cape Hatteras Restricted Gear Area from December through April.

Past experience has shown that time-area closures are highly effective in protecting bluefin, billfish, and other incidentally caught species. I oppose NMFS's proposal to open Charleston Bump, DeSoto Canyon, and the Florida East Coast to pelagic longlining. NMFS may not move forward with this proposal without conducting a thorough analysis of the impacts of reintroducing pelagic longlining to closed areas on bluefin, billfish, sharks, marine mammals, and threatened and endangered species. The analysis NMFS has offered to support its proposal falls far short of meeting the agency's obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, or Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The pelagic longline sector of the HMS fishery kills and discards more bluefin tuna than any other sector of the fishery, and regularly exceeds its annual bluefin tuna quota. Last year, dead discards caused by the pelagic longline sector accounted for one quarter of the entire U.S. Atlantic bluefin quota. NMFS's proposal to take quota from other sectors of the fishery and reallocate it to the pelagic longline sector -- increasing pelagic longline quota by over 85% -- unfairly penalizes cleaner sectors of the fishery and unlawfully facilitates continued high rates of bycatch and dead discards by the pelagic longline sector. I request that NMFS instead adopt a final rule that requires the pelagic longline sector to account for its own dead discards within its own, fairly allocated portion of the overall bluefin quota.

There are several aspects of NMFS's rule that I strongly support. The proposed strict annual cap for bluefin catch, implemented via an individual bluefin quota system for active longline vessels, increases accountability and encourages fishermen to adopt more selective practices. Similarly, requiring vessels to retain all dead bluefin tuna instead of discarding them will reduce waste of bluefin and foster more accurate accounting of fishing mortality. 

Finally, NMFS should adopt measures requiring enhance at-sea monitoring to help enforce the cap on bluefin catch and better track interactions with other marine life, including measures requiring electronic monitoring and increased observer coverage. 

NMFS now has a valuable opportunity to rebuild bluefin tuna and protect numerous other marine species by implementing measures to increase accountability within the pelagic longline sector and foster transitions to more selective fishing gear. Please take this opportunity by strengthening the proposed rule in the ways described above. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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