New Analysis Explores Litigation’s Effects on Catch Share Programs

The Measuring the Effects of Catch Shares project is pleased to release a new analysis of how litigation has affected catch share programs in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

The analysis examines the number of cases, the plaintiffs, the winners and losers, and the ways the cases changed the programs. This analysis is drawn from a larger survey of litigation over catch share programs published this spring in Environmental Law by Suzanne Iudicello and Sherry Bosse Lueders.

Federal district courts in Concord, New Hampshire, and Eureka, California, are currently handling two lawsuits filed in December challenging catch share programs. In the Northeast, New Hampshire fisherman David Goethel has challenged a requirement that groundfish permit holders in the multispecies fishery have to pay for at-sea monitoring. In California, Pacific Choice Seafood Company, a shoreside seafood processor, and operators of two catcher vessels are preparing responses for their suit asking the court to throw out Amendments 20 and 21 of the groundfish trawl management plan. According to information from the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, parties in the case will conference on June 28.

As discussed in the new analysis, these two ongoing cases are the latest examples in a long history of litigation that has contributed to shaping the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, the West Coast Shorebased Individual Fishing Quota Program, and other U.S. catch share programs. However, the statistics reveal that while catch share cases have been part of the litigation record for federal managers, they are an insignificant component. Catch share cases were a small subset of all the cases filed nationally between 2002 and 2014, and of all the cases challenging the Northeast multispecies and the West Coast shorebased trawl programs, only four raised catch share issues. Regardless of the issues argued in court, the two catch share programs—from their fundamental structure to the details of their implementation—have been shaped by litigation.