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Alliance Against IFQs v. Brown

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
84 F.3d 343 (1996)


Facts

Commercial ocean fishing in and near Alaskan waters resulted in the overfishing of sablefish and halibut. To address overfishing, the United States Congress authorized the creation of a fishery-management plan under the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA). The MFCMA authorized the commerce secretary (secretary) (defendant) to implement a fishery-management plan by creating regulations that limited access to the fishery. Among many other factors to consider in developing a fishery-management plan, the secretary was required to consider “present participation” in the fishery. However, the MFCMA did not define present participation. The MFCMA also required the fishery-management plan to comply with standards including fairness and equity to fishermen, efficiency, and avoidance of unnecessary duplication. The secretary created a regulatory scheme that allocated a quota share to each owner or lessee of a vessel that caught halibut or sablefish from 1988 to 1990. The rationales for the prioritization of boat owners and lessees over fishermen were that: (1) fishermen’s shares were difficult to determine and (2) owners and lessees had made capital investments in fishing operations. The rationale for the 1990 cutoff was the prevention of speculative fishing and investment in boats for the purpose of obtaining quota shares. Fishermen who did not own or lease boats, along with boat owners who had not fished prior to the cutoff period (plaintiffs), sued the secretary on the grounds that: (1) the 1990 cutoff violated the present-participation requirement and (2) the allocation of quota shares violated the MFCMA’s requirement of a fair and equitable allocation to all fishermen. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the government and dismissed the complaint.

Rule of Law

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Holding and Reasoning (Kleinfeld, J.)

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