WASHINGTON (CN) – The Federal Circuit described jurisdictional questions as raising “difficult, novel issues” in reviving fish advocates’ claim that the government violated federal law by failing to enforce a ban on importing threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead from Canada.
A three-judge panel overturned the Court of International Trade’s decision to dismiss the Salmon Spawning and Recovery Alliance’s lawsuit against six federal agencies, including the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, for lack of jurisdiction and standing. Judge Gajarsa said the alliance and two other nonprofit fish advocacy groups had standing to sue for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act.
The lawsuit claimed the agencies are shrugging off enforcement of a prohibition against importing West Coast salmon and steelhead at U.S. ports of entry along the Canadian border.
The appellate court agreed that the trade court lacked jurisdiction to consider the government’s decision not to enforce a ban on importing endangered salmon, but said the plaintiffs had a case for procedural violations. They asserted that the defendants failed to consult other agencies on actions relating to the species, a claim the trade court dismissed for lack of standing.
Gajarsa described the ability to redress as a “procedural right” instead of a question of standing, explaining that plaintiffs’ members would experience aesthetic, recreational and environmental disadvantages if consultation under the Endangered Species Act were not completed.
“Under these circumstances, we believe that the better course of action is to remand the case,” Gajarsa wrote.