Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ninth Circuit Court Upholds West Coast Groundfish Catch Share Program

A federal appeals court in San Francisco has unanimously upheld a prior court’s ruling that the West Coast groundfish individual transferable quota system, a form of catch share, was lawfully executed. 
The West Coast Trawlers’ Network said Sept. 12 that the decision helps to ensure that efforts to improve the management and conservation of the resource through a catch share will continue as originally designed.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the ITQ program complies with requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The opinion, filed on Sept. 10, determined that NMFS properly considered the impacts of the program and took necessary steps to achieve its goals, including increasing economic benefits, protecting the environment, and holding fishermen accountable for staying within catch limits.

Brent Paine of United Catcher Boats said that UCB was pleased that the court confirmed that the catch share program is legal and should continue.

“Disrupting a system that has put the west coast fishing industry back on the right track would have been a disaster and cost jobs at a critical time,” Paine said.

David Jincks of the Midwater Trawlers’ Cooperative said the decision affirms that NMFS and the Pacific Fishery Management Council carefully considered the impact of the ITQ program on communities and took steps to protect them, including at the expense of efficiency where necessary.

“In fact, coastal communities and fishing jobs, which were faltering before, are more stable under the new system,” Jincks said. “We have seen profits go up and wasteful bycatch go down under ITQ management.

According to Sherm Jud, Pacific regional deputy director for the Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans program, the environment and the economy both benefit under this program. His organization had joined UCB and the trawlers cooperative in support of the government in this case.

“For years regulators tried and failed to figure out how to allow catch of targeted species without overfishing vulnerable species as bycatch,” Jud said. “Now results from the first year confirm that catch shares have resulted in far less bycatch of overfished species.”

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