New England Fishing Limits Survive Challenge

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge dismissed claims that the New England Fishery Management Council’s fishery-management plan violates overfishing laws by failing to monitor annual catch limits and controlling bycatch.
     U.S. District Judge James Boasberg dismissed all of the claims filed by the environmental group Oceana, except for the group’s challenge to inadequate accountability measures for five particular species.
     Oceana sued U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke over the plan, which was set up as one of eight regional fishery-management councils created by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. In addition to violating Magnuson-Stevens, the group claimed that the fishing plan violated the National Environmental Policy Act “by ‘failing to take a hard look at the environmental impacts of including or excluding stocks from the catch limit system,’ and … by ‘failing to consider any alternatives to the ABC Control Rule other than the no action alternative.'”
     Specifically, the group found problems with accountability measures for yellowtail flounder caught in a scallop fishery.
     The judge refused to grant Oceana summary judgment, stating that the only valid issue that the group raised was that the fishing plan failed to establish sufficient accountability measures for five stocks in a multispecies fishery.
     “Given the nature of this deficiency, the court perceives no reason why any part of Amendment 16 should be vacated,” Boasberg wrote, regarding an amendment to the New England Fishery Management Council’s Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan that created the issues challenged by Oceana. “Instead, the issue of establishing accountability measures for the five stocks will be remanded to [the National Marine Fisheries Service] and [the New England Fishery Management Council] for further action consistent with this memorandum opinion.”

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