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Bluewater Fisherman's Ass'n v. Mineta

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20202
Nos. No. 99-2846 (RWR), 122 F. Supp. 2d 150/(D.D.C., 09/25/2000)

The court upholds all but one of the U.S. Department of Commerce's regulations implementing the final 1999 highly migratory species fishery management plan. The court first holds that three of the regulations, which place limits on the amount of Atlantic bluefin tuna that can be caught and kept per fishing trip, impose an area ban on fishing during the month of June, and mandate annual quotas for all pelagic sharks while imposing separate quotas on blue sharks and subquotas for porbeagle sharks, are consistent with various standards set forth in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and Conservation Act. The regulations achieve optimum yield while preventing overfishing and minimize adverse economic impacts to the extent practicable. The court next holds, however, that a requirement that all pelagic longline fishers install a vessel monitoring system (VMS) unit on their vessels violates the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The record does not support the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS') proffered explanations for requiring VMS units on all pelagic longline vessels, regardless of whether the vessels would encounter closure-restricted areas. The NMFS imposed blanket VMS costs without showing how, by imposing these costs on fishers who do not operate near established time/area closures, the VMS regulations would provide conservation benefits. The court further holds that the NMFS properly allocated restrictions and benefits fairly between commercial and recreational fishers. The court additionally holds that the NMFS did not violate the Regulatory Flexibility Act with regard to the regulations upheld under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The NMFS identified several possible universes of small business that could be affected by shark quotas and evaluated the impacts on each universe, considered the economic impacts of the regulations, and considered alternatives that would lessen the regulations' economic impacts on fishers.

[Counsel not available at this printing.]