Penalties sought for fishing in Pacific marine protection areas
(AP) —An environmental group has petitioned the federal government to outline what fines or other penalties it will impose on companies that fish within three marine national monuments in the Pacific.All commercial fishing was banned in the areas — which lie around Rose Atoll near American Samoa, the Marianas Trench near Saipan, and remote Pacific islands including Palmyra Atoll — when President George W. Bush created the monuments more than three years ago. The Marine Conservation Institute, a Bellevue, Wash.-based group, said the government's failure to draft rules explaining what kind of penalty it will impose for a violation is holding up its ability to enforce the ban. The organization last week petitioned the two co-managers of the monuments, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to create such rules.Fishermen or their boats could harm unique ecosystems, the petition said, such as when a fishing vessel sank and damaged coral at Kingman Reef near Palmyra in 2007, or when fishing boat ran aground and spilled 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel at Rose Atoll in 1993.Nesting sea turtles and the world's largest population of giant clams are at risk, the petition said.