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Anglers Conservation Network v. Pritzker

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20016
Nos. 14-509, (D.D.C., 01/19/2016) (Kessler, J.)

A district court ordered NMFS to take a "hard look" at the environmental impacts of its definition of "fishery" with regard to the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish fishery management plan (FMP) and whether river herring and shad should be included in the FMP. In 2014, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council adopted Amendment 14 to the FMP to reduce the incidental catch of river herring and shad. The Council had also proposed a second amendment, Amendment 15, that would have added river herring and shad to the plan, but it decided to revisit the issue after more study. Environmental groups filed suit, alleging that NMFS violated NEPA and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in approving Amendment 14. Below, the court dismissed the Magnuson-Stevens Act claims, but ruled that NMFS violated NEPA when it approved the amendment without first analyzing a reasonable range of alternatives, including at least one that would have added river herring and shad to the FMP. It also held in its prior ruling that NMFS failed to examine the environmental impacts of not adding river herring and shad to the plan, and that it failed to examine the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of its decision. But because Amendment 14 had already been passed, the court ordered the parties to present their views as to what action would be appropriate and realistic at this stage of the proceeding. The parties have since submitted their response. Taking into account recent regulatory developments and obstacles that could occur, the court chose not to vacate Amendment 14. But it ordered NMFS to take several steps, with deadlines, to ensure that it complies with NEPA and determine whether river herring and shad should be included in the FMP.