WASHINGTON (CN) – A commercial fishing company won its challenge in the D.C. Circuit of regulations aimed at reducing the amount of unwanted fish caught while trawling for groundfish off the coast of Alaska.
The Fishing Company of Alaska challenged the Secretary of Commerce’s final rule establishing “minimum groundfish retention standards” – which imposed economic disincentives on fishing vessels with high rates of unwanted catch, or “bycatch” – for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.
The FCA claimed the rule was not consistent with the national standards under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The plaintiff also claimed the Secretary of Commerce, via the National Marine Fisheries Service, had adopted the rule without consulting the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
At a 2003 meeting, the council wrote an outline endorsing the concept of the groundfish retention standards. Based on that outline, the NMFS drafted the proposed regulation to include three monitoring and enforcement (M&E) requirements that the council never saw or approved. Instead, the draft was submitted directly the secretary for review.
The appeals court reversed summary judgment for the government, finding that the “inadequacy of the council’s action fatally tainted the final rule’s three challenged M&E requirements.” See ruling.