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Settlement in

white marlin case

The Recreational Fishing Alliance reported in October that United States District Judge Richard W. Roberts has approved the settlement agreement in the white marlin Endangered Species Act case. The settlement ended nearly two years of litigation and does not order the National Marine Fisheries Service to list the white marlin as “threatened” or “endangered” as the plaintiff environmental groups were seeking.

“Every term of the settlement agreement, which was signed by most of the parties including the RFA, is now an order of the federal court and the case has been dismissed,” said Raymond D. Bogan, RFA counsel.

The case began when the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network brought a lawsuit against NMFS in January 2004 that sought to force the agency to list the Atlantic white marlin as “threatened” or “endangered” under the ESA.

“The RFA entered the case as a Defendant-Intervenor to protect our members’ interests considering that under the language of the ESA, if white marlin are listed as ‘threatened’ or ‘endangered’ and ‘critical habitat’ is established for the species, NMFS would have the discretion to prohibit recreational fishing for white marlin by regulation — even catch and release,” said Herb Moore, Jr., RFA co-counsel. “That would be a disaster for us.”

The specifics of the settlement agreement are as follows:

• Within 60 days of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna’s adoption of a new white marlin stock assessment, NMFS will begin a new ESA status review of white marlin.

• Within 18 months of the start of the new status review, but no later than Dec. 31, 2007, NMFS must make a new determination whether white marlin should be listed under the ESA.

• In preparing Amendment 2 to the Billfish FMP and Amendment 2 to the HMS FMP, NMFS must specifically take into account five suggested time/area closures to pelagic drift longlining.

In addition to the RFA, the settlement agreement was signed by the Plaintiffs, Defendant-NMFS, and Intervenor-Defendants ASA/CCA. The Bluewater Fisherman’s Association which represents the pelagic drift longline fleet formally opposed the agreement. The Billfish Foundation did not consent to the agreement and did not formally oppose it.