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Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Assocs. v. Blank

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20186
Nos. 11-17108, (9th Cir., 09/10/2012)

The Ninth Circuit upheld amendments the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) made to the fishery management plan for the trawl sector of the Pacific Coast groundfish fishery. The amendments are designed to increase economic efficiency through fleet consolidation, reduce environmental impacts, and simplify future decisionmaking. Non-trawl fishermen whose longtime participation in the fishery may shrink under the amendments filed suit, claiming the agency violated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and NEPA. But the court disagreed. Although the fishermen reasonably disagree with the balance NMFS struck between competing objectives, they failed to show that NMFS exceeded its statutory authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Act or ignored its obligations under NEPA. The Magnuson-Stevens Act required the agency to consider fishing communities, but it 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 the amendments on fishing communities.