Trade group, California processor seek to intervene in Oceana anchovy lawsuit

Published on
August 12, 2019

A trade group and a California-based processing company filed a motion in a U.S. federal court last week seeking to intervene in a lawsuit brought on by Oceana against NOAA Fisheries.

The Oceana suit, filed in June, claims the government agency is not following the best available science to set the catch limit on the anchovy stock in Northern California. That suit was in response to the catch limit NOAA Fisheries set in May after an order from a federal judge stemming from an earlier lawsuit by Oceana.

The current catch limit of 23,573 metric tons was established based on the anchovy’s status as a monitored stock. NOAA Fisheries does not set annual catch limits on monitored stocks. Instead, they establish the limit at 25 percent of its overfishing limit.

Oceana argues the anchovy stock is volatile, and as such, the stock can vary wildly from year to year. Because of that, a 23,573-metric-ton limit could severely deplete the stock and threaten the marine life that depend on it as a food source.

On Wednesday 7 August, the California Wetfish Producers Association and the Monterey Fish Company asked to be included in the case, saying if Oceana succeeds, then it threatens at least 400 jobs in the state.

“If harvest limits for anchovy were reduced even another 10 percent, MFC will be forced to sharply restrict or curtail its processing operations,” the motion states. “If harvest levels are reduced as plaintiff seeks, the result will be a critical loss of processing volume and revenue to MFC and a serious disruption in the supply of fish from its plant to its customers.”

In addition to the reductions in processing staff, the CWPA and Monterey Fish say further quota cuts would require vessels to lay off their crews. 

Both the association and MFC say that if Oceana wins its case, they both would face additional expenditures to take part in additional rulemaking activities with NOAA Fisheries. If association members have to make cuts, that also could jeopardize the how much the CWPA, which relies on member fees, can participate.

“We are asking to be involved in this lawsuit to ensure that the court also considers the needs and concerns of our members and California’s coastal communities,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, the association’s executive director. “Our fishery management policy mandates balance between protecting the ocean and sustaining fishing communities ”

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh will hold a hearing on the motion on 21 November.

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