Court Ruling Scores Victory for Fish

Federal court judge rules in favor of key conservation provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act

Media Contact:
Ellen Bolen, Director, Fish Conservation Program
Telephone: (202) 280-6240

March 28, 2013

Washington, DC: This week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an important opinion regarding the conservation and management of Gulf of Mexico red snapper. The plaintiffs – commercial fishermen and related businesses and associations – challenged regulatory actions taken by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that set the recreational red snapper fishing seasons for 2013. Ellen Bolen, director of Ocean Conservancy's Fish Conservation program, offers the following statement:

"We applaud the judge's ruling in this case. Chronic catch overages by the recreational fishing sector increase the chances of overfishing and threaten progress in successfully rebuilding red snapper. Unfortunately, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, whose responsibility is to develop management policies and approaches for review and approval by NMFS, has known about this issue for years. Under the current system for managing the recreational red snapper fishery, routine and substantial catch limit overages have been the norm since a science-based rebuilding plan was put into place in 2007. On average, the recreational sector substantially exceeded its catch limit by 46 percent every year since 2007 but one, 2010, when the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster shut down large portions of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing.

"Gridlock has prevented the council from taking meaningful actions to address this problem, despite proposals offered by fishermen and others. This ruling addresses this important issue by requiring effective implementation of science-based catch limits with accompanying accountability measures designed to ensure sustainable Gulf of Mexico fisheries. We hope this court ruling provides a pathway to real solutions that must be implemented to ensure successful recovery of red snapper and the future prosperity of coastal communities.

"We recognize recreational fishermen want sustainable Gulf fisheries and want to be an integral part of recovery efforts. It is essential that the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council– a partnership of commercial and recreational fishermen, scientists, and state and federal agencies – implements new tools and approaches that work for fishermen and achieve management goals. We look forward to working with the council and NMFS to ensure an effective system is put in place for the benefit of our fishery resources and fishermen."

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