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Oceana, Inc. v. Gutierrez

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20124
Nos. No. 05-5448, (D.C. Cir., 06/01/2007)

The court upheld National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-Fisheries' (NOAA-Fisheries') longline fishing regulations for the Atlantic fishery. In a 2001 biological opinion (BO), NOAA-Fisheries determined that longline fishing was likely to jeopardize the continued existence of leatherback sea turtles. It therefore included a reasonable and prudent alternative (RPA) in the opinion to avoid jeopardy to leatherbacks while allowing longline fishermen to continue their operations. In 2004, NOAA-Fisheries issued a new BO and RPA. As a result, NOAA-Fisheries expects the 2007 post-release mortality rate to be 13.1%. According to the agency, the total estimated mortality of sea turtles would be brought down from about 264 per year in 2004 to about 77 per year starting in 2007 and continuing indefinitely. An environmental group filed suit, arguing that NOAA-Fisheries acted arbitrarily when it predicted that the measures it was putting in place would result in a 13.1% mortality rate by 2007. The group's objection is directed not at the RPA's goal of reducing the post-release mortality to 13.1%, but at the agency's determination that the goal could be achieved. Agencies, however, make predictive judgments like this all the time. Here, NOAA-Fisheries' judgments are reasonable. The lower court, therefore, properly dismissed the group's claim.