The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Friday that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had no legal basis to rely on pessimistic statistical models to justify imposing costly federal regulations onto lobster fisheries and lobstermen.
The court held in its decision that the NMFS “was egregiously wrong” in its interpretation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) which would have enabled the agency to impose costly regulations on lobstermen in order to protect endangered whales. The challenged regulations were set to require lobstermen and their equipment to meet new standards in order for the lobstermen to receive re-authorization from the federal government to access the lobster fishery, according to the court’s decision.
The regulation would have required lobstermen “to mark their ropes, add weak links or use weak ropes, and increase the number of traps they use for each ‘trawl,’” according to the court’s decision. The rule also would have imposed “seasonal fishing restrictions” in large swaths of the Gulf of Maine, according to the decision.
“Ultimately, if the ruling hadn’t been overturned, our fishery would cease to exist,” Dustin Delano, COO of the New England Fishermen’s Stewardship Association (NEFSA) and former vice president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The NMFS issues licenses that permit access to American fisheries. To do so, the agency is required by the ESA to first author an opinion which assesses the impacts fishery activities are likely to have on protected species living in the same waters, according to the court’s decision. The NMFS can project likely impacts in cases of uncertainty using statistical models based upon the “best commercial and scientific data available,” according to the decision.
In this case, the NMFS gave “the benefit of the doubt” to the protected right whale species “by relying upon worst-case scenarios or pessimistic assumptions,” according to the court’s decision. The court held that NMFS may not grant “the benefit of the doubt” as it did in this instance by “indulging in worst-case scenarios and pessimistic assumptions to benefit a favored side,” according to the decision.
The NMFS’s proposed implementation plan for the regulations could have cost the American lobstering industry up to $90 million over its first six years had the court affirmed the NMFS’s legal arguments, according to the court’s decision.
Lobster fisherman from Maine Jason Joyce says that if Joe Biden wins, “he’ll be controlled by the environmental extremists who want to circumvent longstanding rules and impose radical changes that hurt our coastal communities.”#RNC2020 pic.twitter.com/pGgOATwQmb
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) August 26, 2020
“NMFS’s rules could have destroyed an iconic trade based on a distorted analysis of data that the law does not justify,” Delano said, according to a Friday press release. “Lobstermen, like all New England fishermen, are formed in an ethic of conservation that long predated federal regulations and the environmental movement.”
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