CCA Files Lawsuit To Stop Sector Separation

Legal challenge follows U.S. Secretary of Commerce approval of controversial red snapper management scheme

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CCA Amendment 40 Lawsuit

Coastal Conservation Association's stand against Amendment 40 has now drawn formal opposition from all the groups actively promoting privatization of public marine resources in the Gulf of Mexico. The Charter Fishermen's Association formally intervened on behalf of the federal government's highly controversial plan for Gulf red snapper in May and in recent weeks both the Environmental Defense Fund and the Shareholder Rights Alliance have filed Amicus Briefs in support of the federal government. Standing with CCA is the State of Louisiana, which filed an Amicus Brief in support of recreational anglers in May. "The lines are clearly drawn," said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA's National Government Relations Committee. "The nation's fisheries are facing a united threat from those who seek to severely limit access to public marine resources through privatization schemes. This case may very well determine if this country continues to adhere to the principles of the public trust doctrine in the management of our wildlife resources, or if it will simply allow those resources to be given away to stakeholders that have joined forces to game the system." Amendment 40, also known as sector separation, created a new charter/for-hire sector and reserved a significant percentage of the overall recreational red snapper quota solely for use by the charter/for-hire industry. The measure was narrowly approved by the Gulf Council in October 2014 and resulted in seven representatives to the Council submitting a scathing minority report that was ultimately ignored. CCA filed suit in United States District Court shortly after Amendment 40 was signed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in April 2015. Amendment 40 resulted in a private-boat recreational angling season of just 10 days in 2015, compared to 44 days for the new charter/for-hire sector. The commercial sector, which already operates under a privatized system known as a catch share program, is allowed to fish year-round. "The Environmental Defense Fund, a select few charter/for-hire operators, and the commercial shareholders are working hand-in-glove to privatize roughly 70 percent of the entire red snapper fishery, and the federal government is facilitating it," said Bird. "The merger of a major environmental group with for-profit harvesters is making a mockery of the federal council system, and we are confident that the court will not allow such flagrant manipulation to continue. " Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Oct. 28 in New Orleans.

Coastal Conservation Association announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against implementation of Amendment 40 to the _Fishery Management Plan___ for the__ _Reef Fish___ Resources of the__ _Gulf___ of Mexico. Also known as “sector separation,” the amendment is a highly controversial management plan for red snapper that takes a significant percentage of the recreational quota and reserves it solely for use by the charter/for-hire industry.

“Amendment 40 embodies everything that is wrong with federal management of our marine resources. It is completely out of step with this nation’s heritage of wildlife resource management,” said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “It has been overwhelmingly opposed at every step in the process, but a very small minority has been allowed to manipulate the system to their personal advantage.”

Amendment 40 is widely regarded as the first step to a catch share program for a privileged few in the charter/for-hire industry, similar to the one in place for the commercial red snapper industry. With passage of this amendment, the way is cleared for up to 70 percent of the entire Gulf red snapper fishery to be privately held, while recreational anglers who fish on their own boats will find their access to federal waters severely limited.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved Amendment 40 by a 10-7 vote in October 2014 over opposition from four Gulf states, Congress, the vast majority of recreational anglers and even from within the charter/for-hire industry itself. In the immediate aftermath of the vote, eight representatives to the Council submitted a scathing minority report that was ultimately ignored. The amendment was approved by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on April 10.

In its lawsuit, CCA charges that Amendment 40 constitutes agency action that is arbitrary andcapricious, an abuse of discretion, not in accordance with law and in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations. The lawsuit has been filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.