Description: Challenge to biological opinion for fishery management plan with respect to conclusion regarding impacts on distinct population segments of loggerhead sea turtles.
Oceana, Inc. v. Ross
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 10/01/2020 Opinion Download Court found that agency sufficiently addressed issues on remand and directed entering of final judgment for defendants. Federal Court Satisfied with Agency’s New Explanations About Short-Term Climate Impacts on Loggerhead Turtles. The federal district court for the District of Columbia found that a revised biological opinion prepared by the National Marine Fisheries Service sufficiently responded to two issues that the court ordered the NMFS to address in a 2015 decision. One of the issues concerned the discussion of short-term impacts of climate change in the biological opinion, which addressed the impact of seven fisheries on the Northwest Atlantic Distinct Population Segment of loggerhead sea turtles. The 2015 decision directed the NMFS to “more clearly explain the connection between the record evidence of present and short-term effects caused by climate change, and the agency’s conclusion that climate change will not result in any significant effects on the species in the short-term future.” The court concluded that on remand the NMFS provided a reasoned basis for its conclusion about the short-term effects of climate change, noting that the NMFS had clarified “that while there is record evidence of past and expected future climate change, in the short-term these effects from climate change will not result in a ‘significant effect’ on sea turtles in the action area, specifically.” The court also found that the NMFS had adequately responded to the court’s identification of a need for further explanation of the conclusion that short-term effects on loggerheads would be negligible, given evidence in the record of rapid sea level rise in a 620-mile “hot spot” on the East Coast. In addition, the court said its remand to the NMFS did not require the agency to update the administrative record with more recent climate change studies, and that there was no need for the court to assess the new studies’ impacts on the NMFS’s conclusion. The court noted that the NMFS had reinitiated consultation and was reviewing new information that had become available since 2013. 08/31/2015 Opinion Download Opinion issued. Federal Court Required NMFS to Explain Conclusion of No Short-Term Climate Impacts on Sea Turtles. The federal district court for the District of Columbia declined to vacate a biological opinion in which the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined that the operation of seven fisheries would not jeopardize the continued existence of the Northwest Atlantic distinct population segment of loggerhead sea turtles. The court did, however, remand the matter to NMFS to address various concerns, including the short-term impacts of climate change on the loggerheads. The court said the biological opinion had described “clear evidence that climate change is exerting significant environmental impacts right now,” but had nevertheless concluded that climate change impacts on sea turtles in the short-term future would be negligible. The court required NMFS to provide an explanation of this conclusion. The court rejected most of plaintiff Oceana, Inc.’s other arguments, including the argument that NMFS had failed to consider the long-term effects of climate change on the loggerheads.