Jan 23 2019

Oceana’s Anchovy Lawsuit Backfires, as Judge Asks NMFS to Update Science in Ruling Likely to Increase Catches

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2019 Seafoodnews.com

Seafood News


Photo: Lolly Knit, Flickr, Creative Commons

Oceana, an organization that is a frequent plaintiff against NMFS, thought they had a good case in 2016 when they filed suit against NMFS arguing that a 25,000 ton Central California anchovy allocation exceeded the entire stock, and should be overturned.

Their objective was to shut down the fishery based on an argument of flawed science.

Last week, federal district court  Judge Lucy Koh reaffirmed her 2018 decision that NMFS indeed did not use the best available science, and would need to do a reassessment on this stock.

With the government shutdown, it is not clear when NMFS might be able to respond to the ruling, but since then, the science on which Oceana argued its case has been drastically revised.

Oceana tried to argue that the anchovy stock had fallen to 15,000 to 32,000 ton, and that therefore a 25,000 ton allocation was excessive.

However, one of the scientists who authored that report submitted an updated estimate for the 2015 biomass of 92,000 tons, and using the same method would predict a 1.1 million metric ton biomass in 2017.

In short, the science was flawed, new data show the anchovy populations at record levels, and if NMFS uses the judge’s ruling to follow the best science, a much larger commercial fishery is in the offing.

Currently an anchovy working group from the Pacific Council is meeting without NMFS, and it may take some time to know how the ruling will be applied.

But, the lesson for Oceana is that suing for best available science is something the industry supports as well, and in the case of a dynamic stock like anchovy, it is very hard to get an accurate reading from a single year’s population study.

For that reason, some suggest the council move to a multi-year allocation which would better reflect the actual state of data collection, and avoid wild fluctuations based on possibly limited survey data.


Subscribe to: SeafoodNews.com

Leave a Reply