Ninth Circuit Rules in Favor of Fishermen in United Cook Inlet Drift Association v. National Marine Fisheries Service (14-35982)
The recent ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of United Cook Inlet Drift Association and Cook Inlet Fishermen's Fund versus the National Marine Fisheries Service is a victory for our salmon resources and the people of Alaska.
In a unanimous decision, the Ninth Circuit held that the plain language of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (“MSA”) requires the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to develop a fishery management plan for Cook Inlet salmon fisheries and that the delegation of that authority to the State of Alaska and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game can only occur through a fishery management plan that complies with the MSA’s requirements.
The ruling allows the Cook Inlet salmon resources to once again benefit from the MSA. This 40-year-old Fisheries Act is a global model of sustainability. One of the MSA’s authors, our very own Sen. Ted Stevens, had an exceptional vision for our nation’s fisheries, especially for those in his home state of Alaska. Many elements of the State of Alaska’s fishery management are woven into the fabric of the MSA.
With the use of standards described in the MSA, such as conservation, sustainability, prevention of over fishing, and by utilizing the best scientific information available, the salmon resources of Cook Inlet will be sustainable and bountiful for all Alaskans who rely on Cook Inlet salmon for recreation, healthy food, and jobs, for generations to come.
Fisheries Management Plan Overturned
Stoel Rives Seattle based partners Jason Morgan and Beth Ginsberg achieved a significant victory today on behalf of their clients United Cook Inlet Drift Association and the Cook Inlet Fishermen's Fund, with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in United Cook Inlet Drift Association v. National Marine Fisheries Service. The Court overturned National Marine Fisheries Services' decision to "defer" management of the Cook Inlet Salmon Fishery to the State of Alaska. Although the government acknowledged the national significance of this salmon fishery, and its need for conservation and management, it adopted a fishery management plan ("FMP") that excluded the Cook Inlet Salmon Fishery from the geographic scope of that FMP.
The Ninth Circuit reversed that decision, holding that the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act ("MSA") requires the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to develop an FMP for the Cook Inlet Salmon Fishery. The Court recognized that the Council may delegate management of the fishery through an FMP, but may not decline to produce a plan to guide that management in the first instance.
Jason Morgan noted, "This is a significant win not only for our client but for the entire salmon fishery resource in Cook-Inlet. The MSA is a global model of fishery-sustainability. The Court's decision will ensure that the standards described in the MSA, such as conservation, sustainability, prevention of over fishing, and utilization of the best scientific information available, will apply to the Cook Inlet Salmon Fishery so that these resources are available for generations to come."