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Alaska Trojan Partnership v. Gutierrez

Citation: 35 ELR 20193
No. No. 04-35753, (9th Cir., 09/22/2005)

The court holds that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) Fisheries erred when it denied a fishing vessel's application for an Aleutian Islands brown king crab endorsement under the license limitation program for the Bearing Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish and crab fisheries. Three documented harvests are required for an endorsement. The vessel had two fish tickets demonstrating that brown king crab were caught from three state statistical areas on three separate occasions within the endorsement area. NOAA Fisheries, however, interpreted "documented harvest" as an offload of crab through a landing as evidenced by a fish ticket. Because the vessel only had two tickets, NOAA Fisheries argued that only two documented harvests occurred. But interpreting "documented harvest" as a "landing" is inconsistent with the intent of the licensing limitation program and with the plain meaning of that term as defined in the applicable regulations. When interpreted correctly, the vessel made three documented harvests, thereby entitling it to receive the endorsement.