Description: Lawsuit alleging that authorization and management of lobster fishery violated federal law due to impacts on North American right whales.
Center for Biological Diversity v. Raimondo
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 11/17/2022 Memorandum Opinion and Order Download Final rule and 2021 biological opinion remanded and question of vacatur of the 2021 biological opinion held in abeyance. Federal Court Declined to Vacate Biological Opinion for Lobster and Crab Fishery. The federal district court for the District of Columbia remanded a 2021 biological opinion for lobster and crab fishing off the Atlantic coast to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and held the question of vacatur of the biological opinion in abeyance. Further briefing is to be submitted after NMFS issues a new final Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan Amendment Rule, which NMFS must do no later than December 9, 2024. The court held earlier this year that NMFS violated both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act when it issued the rule and biological opinion, which authorized zero lethal takes of the endangered North Atlantic right whales despite the projection that the American lobster fishery would potentially kill and seriously injure the whales at over three times the sustainable rate. The court concluded that holding the decision on vacatur in abeyance was “the wisest course because facts on the ground are shifting rapidly, as new data emerge on right-whale migratory patterns, mortality factors, technological change, and more.” Those changes include “climate shifts” that push the whales’ habitat northward. 07/08/2022 Memorandum Opinion Download Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment granted. 04/09/2020 Memorandum Opinion Download Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment granted. Federal Court Said Biological Opinion for Lobster Fishery Should Have Included an Incidental Take Statement Due to Impacts on Right Whales. The federal district court for the District of Columbia ruled that a 2014 biological opinion for the American lobster fishery was invalid because the National Marine Fisheries Service did not include an incidental take statement despite finding that the fishery had the potential to harm the endangered North American right whale at more than three times the sustainable rate. The court described the “largest modern threats” to the right whale as ship strikes and fishing-gear entanglement, but the complaint alleged that the biological opinion recognized other threats, including ingestion of plastic debris and global climate change. The court did not address the plaintiffs’ other arguments regarding the inadequacies of the biological opinion and said it would accept briefing from the parties on the scope of an injunctive remedy. 10/31/2019 Memorandum Opinion Download Motion to stay denied. Federal Court Declined to Put Case Concerning Lobster Fishery and Endangered Right Whales on Hold. The federal district court for the District of Columbia denied the National Marine Fisheries Service and other federal defendants’ (NMFS’s) motion to stay a lawsuit challenging the management of the American lobster fishery. Plaintiffs asserted that the federal defendants failed to adequately address the fishery’s impacts on the endangered North American right whale, including by failing to consider cumulative effects of climate change. NMFS argued that the case should be stayed because its pending promulgation of two conservation measures would moot the claims, but the court found that NMFS had not shown a compelling need for a stay. The court decided that the case should proceed “because harm to a critically endangered species hangs in the balance.” 01/18/2018 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Lawsuit Alleged That Management of Lobster Fishery Violated Federal Laws Protecting North American Right Whales. Three non-profit groups filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the District of Columbia alleging that the authorization and management of the American lobster fishery violated the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and Administrative Procedure Act due to impacts on endangered North American right whales. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a biological opinion in 2014 determining that ongoing operations of the fishery were likely to kill or seriously injure more than three right whales every year but that fishery was not likely to jeopardize the right whales’ continued existence. The complaint alleged, among other things, that the NMFS’s jeopardy analysis was “patently unlawful” and had “improperly consider[ed] only the isolated share of responsibility for impacts to right whales from operation of the fishery, rather than adding the direct and indirect effects of operation of the fishery to all other activities and influences that affect the status of the species,” which include threats from climate change.
Conservation Law Foundation v. Ross
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 02/07/2018 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Lawsuit Challenging Management of Lobster Fishery Said Agency Failed to Consider Fishery’s Effects Added to Baseline Affected by Climate Change and Other Factors. Conservation Law Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s ongoing authorization and management of the American lobster fishery for failing to prevent jeopardy and unlawful takes of North Atlantic right whales in violation of the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. The complaint alleged, among other claims, that a 2014 biological opinion concerning the effects of continued operations of the lobster fishery on endangered and threatened species, including the right whale, was arbitrary and capricious. One of the shortcomings alleged in the complaint was the biological opinion’s failure to add the fishery’s direct and indirect effects (entanglement in fishing gear was alleged to be the “single greatest threat” to right whale survival) to the environmental baseline and the cumulative effects on the species. Climate change was among the factors discussed in the environmental baseline and cumulative effects analysis as potentially having a negative influence on right whale recovery.