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Caribbean Marine Services Co. v. Baldrige

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
844 F.2d 668 (1988)


In 1972, Congress enacted the Marine Mammal Protection Act (Act) to reduce incidental injuries to marine mammals during commercial-fishing operations. Pursuant to the Act, Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige promulgated regulations requiring fishing-permit holders to allow an observer from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to accompany fishing vessels. Caribbean Marine Services Company, Inc. (CMS) (plaintiff), which owned tuna-fishing boats, brought suit against Baldrige, NOAA Administrator Anthony Calio, and other government officials (defendants) after Calio adopted a new policy of hiring female as well as male observers and assigned a female observer to CMS. CMS sought preliminary injunctive relief, arguing that (1) female observers would violate the privacy of male crew members, as observers had to share tiny bunkrooms and bathrooms with crew members and would consequently see each other undressed and performing bodily functions; (2) female observers would be at risk of sexual assault and harassment, thus subjecting CMS to uninsurable liability; and (3) the presence of female observers would interfere with operations by forcing officers to devote attention to protecting the female observers from inappropriate conduct rather than catching tuna. The defendants presented evidence of (1) women serving as observers successfully; (2) the infrequency of assault and harassment of female observers; and (3) private rooms being commonly available on fishing vessels, with male and female observers commonly being accommodated in those rooms. The district court granted a preliminary injunction, holding that the balance of hardships tipped towards CMS because (1) an injunction would uphold the status quo, (2) the tuna industry had financial problems, (3) female observers would disturb the domestic aspect of the vessels, and (4) declarations from CMS speculated that accommodating female observers would be costly. The district court further held that CMS had raised serious questions of law. The defendants appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Wallace, J.)

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