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Posts Tagged ‘lawsuit’

Someones gotta protect the our oceans and the animals that live in it, and it sure isn’t going to be National Marine Fisheries Service…

Today, conservation groups Turtle Island Restoration Network, Center for Biological Diversity, and KAHEA, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Honolulu, Hawai`i challenging a new federal rule allowing the Hawai’i-based longline swordfish fishery to catch nearly three times as many loggerhead sea turtles as was previously permitted. The lawsuit challenges a rule issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service on December 10, 2009, which allows the fishery to fish without any limitation on the amount of fishing it can do, except that it must stop if and when it catches the authorized number of turtles. Until now, there were limits on the number of longline sets that could be fished, as well as a lower number of turtles that could be taken. With the new rule, federal fishery managers have created an endangered turtle derby. Federal fishery managers project that the fishery will eventually expand to about three times the size it’s been for the past six years, leading to increased bycatch not only of turtles, but of marine mammals and sea birds as well.

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From Melissa:

KAHEA’s suit against DLNR has gotten much media coverage over the last few days. The following excerpts provide the basic information about the case, please read the full articles to further your knowledge on this very important issue.

Two lawsuits filed within the past two weeks claim that the state of Hawaii is breaking its own law that requires protection of the largest conservation area in the United States.

KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources for failing to conduct legally required environmental reviews before granting hundreds of permits for access to the protected Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The region is world renowned for its diversity of endangered species, unique deep sea coral reefs, and rare predator-dominated ecosystem.
The KAHEA lawsuit, filed in state circuit court in Honolulu, seeks an injunction to halt the unlawfully permitted activities and the granting of new permits until the state agency complies with state law.

The islands are revered as sacred by Native Hawaiian cultural and religious practitioners as the path of souls to the next life, says KAHEA.

“Our Kupuna Islands are protected and revered for a reason,” said Kumu Hula Vicky Holt-Takamine, KAHEA’s Board president. “This is not the wild west; there are laws here. Laws that are meant to protect our natural resources and the best interests of Hawaii’s people.”

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Without doing required assessments on how the proposed work would affect the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands environment, the agency approved such activities as shark kills, extreme-sports canoe racing, harvesting of thousands of marine species and disturbing of sunken vessels, according to Kahea’s lawsuit.

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Kahea – The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance – sued the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources in state court after a whistleblower accused the state agency of refusing to do its job…

Former monument policy specialist David Weingartner claims he was fired because he reported to superiors the issuance of permits without environmental review.

Weingartner’s lawsuit, filed July 8, includes a table indicating 20 permits, most of them for scientific research, which he says lack environmental assessments.

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After reading these articles you may ask yourself why the state can’t and didn’t follow their own laws. We ask ourselves the same question. Please keep informed and check back with us for further updates!

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A lawsuit seeking basic government documents has been filed in Federal District Court against the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WESPAC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) by the Conservation Council for Hawaii, KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance (KAHEA), and the LOST FISH Coalition.

The lawsuit was filed to gain access to documents requested by the plaintiffs in a November 14, 2007, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted to WESPAC seeking basic budget, grant, and contract information. Tina Owens from the LOST FISH Coalition said, “In addition to shedding light on the long-hidden and most basic internal operations of this controversial federal entity, the documents may also shed light on how WESPAC funds may have been used in what appears to be various lobbying campaigns to influence state and federal legislative and executive branch decisions related to marine conservation in Western Pacific waters.” Miwa Tamanaha, KAHEA Executive Director noted, “Wise, sound, community-based management requires accountability and transparency. If there is nothing improper, then there should be nothing to hide. With the situation of our ocean resources so imperiled, it is ridiculous that citizen groups should have go to these lengths to get basic information about use of our public dollars.”

WESPAC has been under scrutiny related to allegations of illegal lobbying, including actions to try and halt the NWHI and CNMI National Marine Monument declarations, and for funding the controversial Puwalu Series, a lobbying ploy to pass legislation curtailing community-based-fishing-management programs in Hawai`i. Based in Honolulu, WESPAC is the subject of at least two active federal investigations; one by the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of the Inspector General (IG), and another by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Tina Owens also said, “Getting any public information from WESPAC is virtually impossible, and that’s not only not right, it’s not legal. This is a federal entity, funded by taxpayers’ money and unless specific documents fall under one of a few narrow FOIA exceptions, every document in their possession must be open to the public. Back in October of 2007, the public was told by WESPAC Executive Director Kitty Simonds that WESPAC’s library and all of its documents “…are open to the public at any time,”  For months I tried to access the WESPAC library and WESPAC documents, and at each turn Ms. Simonds put up new roadblocks to my access, often at significant cost and inconvenience.  When she could ignore me no more, she backtracked and stated that I had to file a Freedom of Information Act request.  So I did. Then she ignored that as well. What is WESPAC hiding? How can a federal entity treat the public like this? They need to realize they are answerable to the public.”

While disclosure of public documents is required under Federal Law, the WESPAC situation is made worse by WESPAC’s refusal to use uniform information procedures.  “There is a shocking insensitivity of WESPAC and its executive director, Kitty Simonds, to the required open and transparent decisionmaking,” said lead counsel Peter Van Tuyn, Esq.  “As President Obama states, a ‘democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.’”  This lawsuit is intended to force the doors open on this rogue council and ensure that accountability.

The original FOIA requests were generated as part of the plaintiffs’ ongoing oversight of Western Pacific federal and state water ocean resource conservation issues involving the restoration and protection of the Western Pacific Ocean environment and the people who reside in the region. NOAA and the Department of Commerce are defendants because they have refused to exercise their oversight responsibilities with respect to WESPAC to help plaintiffs get the documents.  “NOAA’s support of citizen groups seeking access to public records from WESPAC is crucial if we are to end overfishing and ensure science-based management.” said Marjorie Ziegler, Executive Director of Conservation Council for Hawai`i. “WESPAC is controlled by commercial fishing interests, and therefore strict NOAA oversight is critical.  Ending overfishing and allowing the fish stocks to recover will benefit all of Hawai’i’s fishers, fishing communities, our endangered monk seal, threatened seabirds and our beloved honu [green sea turtles].”

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WESPAC) is one of eight regional councils established under the U.S. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Recovery Act to manage the nation’s offshore marine resources.

Link to White House Statement
http://belammc.com/wespac/Obama_FOIA1.pdf

Link to Complaint
http://belammc.com/wespac/090115FiledLawsuit.pdf

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