HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An environmental group says it has new data supporting its lawsuit aimed at saving false killer whales in Hawaiian waters, with the data coming from the federal agency it is suing.
Earthjustice claims that longline fishing in Hawaiian waters is killing the false killer whales faster than they can be replaced. It says a new report from the National Marine Fisheries Service confirms those claims.
"That's why we're back in court, and these numbers back up what we've been saying for decades, which is, 'agency, stop sifting through the data and start acting because otherwise we're not going to have these false killer whales for future generations," said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin.
The Fisheries Service report showed that there are far more false killer whales in Hawaiian waters than previously thought. According to the report, the estimated number of the animals more than 22 miles from the main Hawaiian islands is actually 906, up from the previous estimate of 249.
Based on that estimate, the service determined that nine animals could be lost each year without decreasing the population. But the report also said that the actual number of animals killed is higher.
"Congress said for this population of false killer whales, the most of the fishery could kill each year is less than one. So not even one a year. They're killing over 13," said Henkin.
Earthjustice and other conservation groups also said the higher population number is the result of better study techniques. And Earthjustice said there's already a plan to reduce the death rate. "A plan that was agreed on by the expert biologists, it was agreed on by the fishermen, and it was agreed on by the conservationists to save Hawaii's false killer whales. And since that time, for the last two years, it's been sitting on a shelf," said Henkin.
Earthjustice has taken the National Marine Fisheries Service to court to get the plan implemented. it said otherwise, eventually there won't be any false killer whales left in Hawaiian waters.
The National Marine Fisheries Service did not have immediate comment.