HONOLULU (AP) — Environmental groups on Thursday sued the National Marine Fisheries Service to challenge a new rule for fishing bigeye tuna, a popular species for sushi and fish steaks.


The regulation undermines international efforts to end overfishing of bigeye, said the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court by the environmental law firm Earthjustice on behalf of the Conservation Council for Hawaii and two other groups.


The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which regulates commercial fishing between Indonesia and Hawaii, has established an annual quota of 3,763 metric tons of bigeye for U.S.-flagged longline vessels in the central and western Pacific.


But the lawsuit said the agency's new rule invents separate additional catch limits for three U.S. Pacific territories: American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The rule then allows the territories to allocate up to half of their catch limit to Hawaii-based longline fishing vessels. The nearly doubles the amount of bigeye that U.S. ships may catch in the central and western Pacific, the lawsuit said.


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