Court Tosses Challenge to Lobster Trapping Limits

     (CN) – The 1st Circuit refused to revive a commercial fishing group’s claim that Rhode Island violated state regulations by retroactively imposing federal restrictions on lobster trapping. The appellate panel upheld both the district court’s refusal to remand and its decision to dismiss.

     In 1997 the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which develops fishery management plans along the Atlantic coast, launched a plan to prevent overfishing that called for allocating traps to lobstermen based on their catch between 2001 and 2003.
     In 2006 Rhode Island adopted new regulations meant to “bring the state of Rhode Island into compliance” with the commission’s plan. These regulations required lobstermen seeking trap allocations to show that they held a federal permit or state license from 2001 to 2003 and had made a catch during that time.
      The Rhode Island Fisherman’s Alliance filed a state-claims lawsuit against the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and its director, claiming they violated the state Constitution and state laws by injecting retroactive control dates in the new regulatory framework.
     The defendants successfully removed the case to federal court on the grounds that the contested regulations stemmed from federal restrictions adopted by the state.
     The Boston-based appeals court agreed that the case belonged in federal court.
      “Here, the claim of entitlement to a federal forum rests … on the express incorporation of federal law into the state statute on which plaintiffs’ cause of action is grounded,” Judge Selya wrote.
     On the merits, the 1st Circuit saw no reason to disturb the district court’s “thoughtful and comprehensive rescript explaining its multi-faceted rationale” for dismissing the challenge.

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