Strahan v. Coxe

127 F.3d 155 (1997)

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Strahan v. Coxe

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
127 F.3d 155 (1997)

  • Written by Tammy Boggs, JD

Facts

The northern right whale was an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA); only around 300 of the whales were left. The whales appeared in Massachusetts waters during their spring feeding season. According to a report of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), entanglement with fishing gear was one of the leading causes of the species’ depletion, and more than half of northern right whales had been scarred from entanglement. In 1995, NMFS prohibited any taking of a northern right whale incidental to commercial-fishing operations. In Massachusetts, all commercial-fishing vessels in state waters were required to obtain a permit from a state agency, the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), to take fish. DMF allowed gillnet and lobster-pot fishing gear in certain areas while also requiring a 500-yard “buffer zone” around northern right whales. Evidence supported that the whales had been entangled in gillnet and lobster-pot fishing gear at least nine times in Massachusetts waters. One uncontested scientific affidavit reported that three northern right whales had been entangled in fishing gear that had been “clearly” deployed in Massachusetts waters. Richard Strahan (plaintiff) sued several Massachusetts agency officials (defendants) claiming that the officials were violating the ESA. Strahan sought an injunction to revoke, and prevent the issuance of, licenses and permits authorizing gillnet and lobster-pot fishing. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Strahan. The state officials appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Torruella, C.J.)

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