By AUDREY McAVOY
HONOLULU (AP) - Environmentalists want a federal judge to stop the National Marine Fisheries Service from allowing Hawaii-based fishermen to attribute some of their bigeye tuna catch to U.S. territories.
They argue the agency is enabling the fishermen to circumvent international agreements aimed at controlling the overfishing of a popular tuna species also known as ahi.
Earthjustice attorney David Henkin on Friday told U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi the fisheries service acted illegally when it created a framework allowing Hawaii longline fishermen to attribute some of their catch to Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.
U.S. Department of Justice attorney Bradley Oliphant told Kobayashi the fisheries service carefully studied the environmental effects of the arrangement. He says the quota transfer meets the requirements of U.S. fisheries and environmental laws.