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California Sea Urchin Commission v. Bean

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20176
Nos. 2:14-cv-08499, (C.D. Cal., 09/18/2015) (Walter, J.)

A district court upheld FWS' decision to terminate the southern sea otter translocation program off the coast of California. Due to the threatened species' vulnerability to extinction from oil spills, environmental contamination, disease, shooting, and entanglement in fishing gear, FWS began the translocation program in 1987. Under the program, the creation of which was authorized by the U.S. Congress, FWS would relocate southern sea otters found in waters south of Santa Barbara and north of the Mexico border—the "management zone"—to California's Nicolas Island. But due to unexpectedly high levels of deaths, disappearances of translocated otters, and slow growth of the new colony, FWS halted translocation efforts in 1991 and suspended the capture and removal of sea otters from the management zone in 1993. In 2012, FWS formally terminated the program, and commercial fishing groups filed suit. But the court held they lacked standing. Any alleged injuries that might result from reduced shellfish stocks caused by the sea otters' consumption of shellfish in the former management zone will not be redressed by their lawsuit. And even if the groups did have standing, the groups' claims lack merit. FWS had the discretion to both commence and cease implementation of the program under the authorizing statute.