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Challenge to Fish Plan |Is Dead in the Water

(CN) - The D.C. Circuit said it lacks jurisdiction to consider whether the government flouted national standards with a fish-management plan to end the overfishing of black sea bass, snowy grouper and other species of South Atlantic fish.

The North Carolina Fisheries Association, two commercial fishermen and a fish-packing plant claimed the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, a division of the Department of Commerce, violated national standards on fish conservation and management by approving the revised plan.

They said the council didn't use "the best scientific information available," and failed to assess the plan's economic impact on fish-dependent communities.

The district court rejected most of their claims, but conceded that the council needed a plan for replenishing snowy grouper and black sea bass stocks.

After the council drew up another amendment - this one containing a rebuilding plan for the overfished species - the lower court approved the proposal and remanded to the government.

The plaintiffs were unhappy with the "fix," claiming it failed to correct the alleged errors of the first amended plan.

The council urged the D.C. Circuit to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, saying the case was moot.

The appeals court identified a "live controversy," but agreed that it lacked jurisdiction, for a different reason: The remand is not final, because the trial court remanded with instructions to refine the regulation.

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