By PATRICIA SMITH HEUPEL
FREEDOM ENC - 11/05/2002
The N.C. Fisheries Association has agreed to intervene on behalf of the National Marine Fisheries Service in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups that claim the agency has failed to control fishing to protect whales, dolphin and other marine mammals.
"There were fisheries from all over the country that were implicated in the suit including just about every fishery that we're involved with in this state," said NCFA President Jerry Schill.
The lawsuit has the potential to adversely affect the gill net, trawl, long haul, crab pot, pound net and beach seine fisheries, Schill said.
Sylvia Liu, senior attorney with Oceana, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said the purpose of the legal action is to get NMFS to comply with the law.
"We definitely are not trying to shut down any fishery through this lawsuit," Liu said.
The environmental groups are trying to force NMFS to complete a report to Congress that was required in 1998 and to convene teams to find ways to reduce marine mammal interactions with fishing gear, Liu said.
In August, Idyllwild, Calif.-based Center for Biological Diversity, Forest Knolls, Calif.-based Turtle Island Restoration Network and Washington, D.C.-based Oceana filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The lawsuit claims that NMFS has failed to comply with requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.