A US District Court in Anchorage has come down on the side of the National Marine Fisheries Service in litigation in which Oceana and Greenpeace challenged expanded commercial fishing in the Aleutian Islands.
US District Court Judge Timothy Burgess said the plaintiffs failed to meet their burden to show that either the 2014 biological opinion or the final environmental impact statement is arbitrary and capricious.
Burgess denied their motion for summary judgment.
The location of the fisheries includes an area of critical habitat for the endangered western Distinct Population segment of Steller sea lions. Plaintiffs argued that actions by NMFS violated the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. Defendant-intervenors Alaska Seafood Cooperative, the Adak Community Development Corp., the Aleut Corp., and the Groundfish Forum said as participants in the federal groundfish fishery they stood to suffer economic and other losses as a result of fishery restrictions.
NMFS officials in Juneau said they welcomed the court’s ruling, “which clears the path for NMFS to continue fishery management measures in the Aleutian Islands which protect the endangered Western Steller sea lions, while minimizing economic losses to the fishing industry.”
Judge Burgess found that NMFS had complied with its legal obligations under all applicable laws and granted summary judgment in our favor, NMFS officials said.
Mike Levine, Pacific senior counsel for Oceana, said the plaintiffs are disappointed by the decision.
“This court decision does not alter the fact that we can and must find a more sustainable way to take fish from the ocean,” Levine said. “Better management to address the rapid and ongoing loss of endangered Steller sea lions in the Aleutian Islands is one step we can take in that direction.”