DESTIN, FL / ACCESSWIRE / May 9, 2022 / Commercial fishermen and members of the Gulf of Mexico seafood industry have filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of a recent decision by NOAA Fisheries to reallocate red grouper quota to recreational fishermen at the expense of the commercial fishery. The Gulf Coast Seafood Alliance (GCSA) supports the efforts by the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders' Alliance, Southern Offshore Fishing Association, and A.P. Bell Fish Company to challenge this decision, in an effort to restore a fair allocation for commercial fishermen.
The lawsuit, filed late on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, challenges recent red grouper allocations approved by NOAA as part of Amendment 53 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico.
The plaintiffs indicated they will seek expedited review.
Amendment 53 drastically reallocates the quota for red grouper. It increases the recreational share of the quota from 24 percent to 40.7 percent, while decreasing the commercial share from 76 percent to 59.3 percent. Simultaneously, the Amendment decreases the overall available red grouper quota in order to account for increased grouper discards from the recreational fishermen.
According to the lawsuit, this allocation 'unlawfully benefit[s] the recreational fishing sector, harm[s] the commercial fishing sector and seafood consumers, and jeopardize[s] conservation,' while going against the conservation goals set out in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal law governing U.S. fishery management. It notes that the Amendment is only the latest in a series of decisions showing 'unlawful favoritism' to recreational fishermen.
GCSA has previously criticized Amendment 53 in its own analysis. GCSA specifically has criticized the Amendment for the flaws in the process that led to its adoption, the inadequate economic analysis that supported its allocation decision, and the legal precedents that the Amendment violates.
The complaint specifies ten causes of action, demonstrating that Amendment 53 violates:
- Magnuson-Stevens Act National Standard Four, which requires that allocations of fishing privileges 'shall be...fair and equitable to all such [U.S.] fishermen' and 'reasonably calculated to promote conservation.'
- Magnuson-Stevens Act National Standard Nine, which requires that '[c]onservation and management measures shall, to the extent practicable, (A) minimize bycatch and (B) to the extent bycatch cannot be avoided, minimize the mortality of such bycatch.'
- Magnuson-Stevens Act Section 303(a)(11), which requires that any Fishery Management Plan 'establish a standardized reporting methodology to assess the amount and type of bycatch occurring in the fishery, and include conservation and management measures that, to the extent practicable and in the following priority-(A) minimize bycatch; and (B) minimize the mortality of bycatch which cannot be avoided.'
- Magnuson-Stevens Act Section 303(a)(15), which requires all Fishery Management Plans to 'establish a mechanism for specifying annual catch limits in the plan (including a multiyear plan) implementing regulations, or annual specifications, at a level that overfishing does not occur in the fishery, including measures to ensure accountability.'
- Magnuson-Stevens Act National Standard One, which requires that '[c]onservation and management measures shall prevent overfishing while achieving, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield from each fishery for the United States fishing industry.'
- Legal requirements regarding the setting and review of optimum yield as specified in Magnuson- Stevens Act Sections 303(a)(3), 303(a)(4)(A), AND 302(h)(5).
- Magnuson-Stevens Act National Standard Two, which requires that 'conservation and management measures shall be based upon the best scientific information available.'
- Magnuson-Stevens Act National Standard Eight, which requires that NOAA must 'take into account the importance of fishery resources to fishing communities.'
- The Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
- The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Despite Flawed Procedures, Economic Inaccuracies and Legal Precedents, NOAA Acts to Take Fish from Families, Markets, Restaurants and Consumers
Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders' Alliance: Statement on Red Grouper Quota Instability
The Gulf Coast Seafood Alliance (GCSA) is an organization of stakeholders seeking a common goal: equitable and sustainable fisheries along the Gulf Coast for commercial and recreational use alike. Our members make up a diverse group of restaurant owners, chefs, vessel owners, and seafood market owners. GCSA members represent the entire spectrum of commercial fish production in the Gulf of Mexico, from harvest at sea, to processing, and ultimately to the end consumer - shoppers in markets and diners in restaurants.
Stove Boat Communications
SOURCE: Gulf Coast Seafood Alliance
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