Nossaman Nets Win for Fisheries Clients with Ruling Overturning North Pacific Council's Amendment 113


As a result of Nossaman’s efforts for its clients, B&N Fisheries Company, Groundfish Forum, Katie Ann LLC and United Catcher Boats, in the matter Groundfish Forum, et al. v. Wilbur L. Ross, et al. (1:16-cv-02495) in March 2019, DC District Court Judge Timothy Kelly ruled that the North Pacific Council’s Amendment 113 to the Bering Sea Groundfish Fisheries Management Plan does not comply with Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) requirements.  

This ruling rejected arguments by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that Amendment 113 was consistent with the MSA's national standards for fishery management. Judge Kelly vacated the rule implementing Amendment 113 and remanded Amendment 113 to the agency for reconsideration. This decision served to bring an end to an improper regulation that limited the ability of our clients and others to fish and process cod in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, which negatively impacted their businesses and livelihoods. The news of the ruling was covered in industry publications such as 

In 2016, the NMFS adopted Amendment 113 to the management plan for Pacific cod in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands archipelago. The NMFS concluded that previous conservation measures had led to more vessels in the region processing their catch at sea, and fewer vessels delivering catch to onshore processing plants in two nearby island fishing communities—Adak and Atka. Amendment 113 set aside a portion of the Pacific cod fishery off the coast of the Aleutian Islands each year for exclusive harvest by vessels that delivered their fish to one of only two onshore processing plants located in Adak and Atka.  

Pursuant to Judge Kelly’s ruling, the NMFS failed to demonstrate that this preferential treatment for these two processing plants satisfied the requisite standards for such regulatory measures set forth by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and its decision to adopt Amendment 113 was arbitrary, capricious and not in accordance with applicable law. 

The Nossaman team was led by Environment & Land Use Group Partner Linda Larson.

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