In Court Ruling on Right Whales, Good News for Scallop Fishery

WASHINGTON, DC / ACCESSWIRE / October 30, 2019 / A federal district court has ruled this week that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) violated both the Endangered Species Act and Magnuson-Stevens Act in allowing gillnet fishing in areas frequented by right whales. While the Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF) was a Defendant-Intervenor in the case, the ruling contains good news for the scallop fishery.

At issue are provisions in Omnibus Habitat Amendment 2 (OHA2), which updated the network of closed areas and habitat protections off the coast of New England. The suit, filed by the Conservation Law Foundation and Earthjustice, alleges that OHA2 put right whales at risk by opening offshore areas near Nantucket to commercial fishing.

While the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that allowing gillnet fishing in these areas did have the potential to harm right whales, and thus violated the Endangered Species Act, the Court’s ruling does not affect the scallop fishery, which will continue to be allowed to operate in these areas.

Specifically, the Court noted, “because Plaintiff’s summary-judgment motion does not contest the Habitat Amendment’s changes to the Scallop [Fishery Management Plan], Defendant-Intervenor Fisheries Survival Fund’s arguments, which relate only to that fishery, are rendered moot.”

This means that while the Court acted to prevent gillnet fishing in the newly opened areas, it did not overturn OHA2, nor did it stop scallop fishing in these areas. This is consistent with FSF’s long-standing position in the case, which is that the scallop fishery is not a threat to right whales, and that scallop fishing is not impacting right whale conservation.

Read the full opinion here.

Read the full order here.


Robert Vanasse

SOURCE: Fisheries Survival Fund

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