Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pacific Coast Federation v. Blank (Commerce Dept.)

Sep 10: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 11-17108. Appealed from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The Appeals Court explains that in 2011, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Pacific Council or Council) adopted changes to the fishery management plan for the trawl sector of the Pacific Coast groundfish fishery. The changes, adopted as Amendments 20 and 21 to the PacificCoast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan, are designed to increase economic efficiency through fleet consolidation, reduce environmental impacts, and simplify future decisionmaking.
    Plaintiffs-Appellants Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, et al. (plaintiffs) are a collection of primarily non-trawl fishermen's associations and groups whose longtime participation in the fishery may shrink under Amendments 20 and 21. They argue that the Amendments are unlawful under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), which imposes procedural and substantive requirements for managing fisheries, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which imposes purely procedural requirements for reviewing the potential environmental effects of proposed agency actions.
    The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants. The Appeals Court affirmed the district court decision and said, "NMFS complied with the MSA's provisions, which required the agency to consider fishing communities but did not require it to develop criteria for allocating fishing privileges to such communities or to restrict privileges to those who 'substantially participate' in
the fishery. NMFS also complied with NEPA by preparing a separate study for each amendment, analyzing a reasonable range of alternatives, adequately evaluating potential environmental effects, and adopting flexible mitigation measures designed, in part, to lessen the potential adverse effects of Amendments 20 and 21 on fishing communities. The plaintiffs reasonably disagree with the balance NMFS struck between competing objectives, but they do not show that NMFS exceeded its statutory authority under the MSA or ignored its obligations under NEPA."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Wildlife, #CA9]
32 Years of Environmental Reporting for serious Environmental Professionals