Federal judge puts an end to judicial fishing season for Amendment 16

Claire Morgenstern

New Bedford Harbor. Photo credit: brixton, flickr

Yesterday, in a ruling by the Massachusetts District Court in a lawsuit by the City of New Bedford and others challenging the legality of the fishing regulations known as Amendment 16 , Judge Rya Zobel denied the plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment in the case, upholding the regulations. CLF intervened in the case in September 2010 on the side of the Federal government. CLF’s motion and the government’s motion for summary judgment were allowed, terminating the case. Read CLF’s complete press statement >

In response, CLF’s Peter Shelley reflected on the decision’s significance in the commercial fishing industry in a blog post published in Talking Fish, the blog developed by CLF and others that focuses on fisheries management issues in New England. Shelley wrote:

Federal judge Rya Zobel was talking fish recently when she declared an end to the judicial fishing season for Amendment 16, terminating the two suits brought by the Cities of New Bedford and Gloucester and a variety of commercial fishing interests from Massachusetts and the mid-Atlantic. Judge Zobel’s ruling, while it may yet be appealed to a higher court by the plaintiffs, puts to bed several issues that have been floating around New England’s groundfish for several years.

First, the decision strengthens the role of the New England Fishery Management Council and NMFS in their critical planning process by emphasizing that the “Agency’s informed conclusion, reached at Congress’ express direction after an extended and formal administrative process” effectively binds the reviewing court’s hands under well-established principles of law. By  emphasizing this point, the Court made clear that the plan development process through the Council was where attention should be paid by all interested parties and that the courts were not available to second guess management planning decisions. Many saw New Bedford’s and Gloucester’s legal action as a thinly disguised effort at an end run around the council. Fortunately, it hasn’t paid off. Keep reading on Talking Fish >

Background on Amendment 16

This amendment, part of the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, establishes science-based annual catch limits for cod, haddock, flounder and other groundfish as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act to end overfishing in U.S. waters. Amendment 16 also creates a voluntary sector system for the New England groundfish fishery. CLF has been in support of Amendment 16 since its inception, reasoning that the new regulations allow fishermen to increase their profits while leaving more fish in the ocean, which is particularly important for species such as the Atlantic cod, which have been dangerously overfished in previous decades. Read more on CLF’s involvement with Amendment 16 and fisheries management issues in New England >

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