Two environmental groups file suit to stop shark fishing.

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Friday, July 27, 2001

Two environmental groups file suit to stop shark fishing.

The Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. - Two environmental groups are asking a judge to halt a decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service to allow a limited amount of shark fishing in U.S. waters.

The Ocean Conservancy and the National Audubon Society filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday, claiming that the fisheries service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce violated laws set up to protect the nation's fisheries.

The plaintiffs claim the governmental agencies based their decision to set a shark quota of about 690 metric tons on incomplete scientific information. The environmental groups want an injunction to put the fishing on hold and for a judge to order a new environmental impact study.

The groups argue that the semiannual quota, announced June 26, would jeopardize the shark population's overall health and make it all the more difficult to replenish an already depleted predator.

"We need this to happen fast or the species will be in even more trouble than it already is," said Ansley Samson, an attorney with Earthjustice, the nonprofit public interest law firm that represents the environmental groups.

The quota affects blacktip, sandbar, tiger, hammerheads and other large coastal sharks in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Generally, sharks grow slowly, mature late and produce small numbers of young.

Environmental experts estimate that some types, such as sand bar sharks, have declined by up to 80 percent since the late 1970s and say overfishing accounts for a large part of the decline.

But commercial shark fishermen have filed several suits in the past four years challenging the government's shark population estimates as too low.
 

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