CCA files lawsuit to stop sector separation

Legal challenge follows Commerce approval of controversial red snapper management scheme

Posted on April 22, 2015

Coastal Conservation Association announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against implementation of Amendment 40 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico. Also known as “sector separation,” the amendment is a highly controversial management plan for red snapper that takes a significant percentage of the recreational quota and reserves it solely for use by the charter/for-hire industry.

“Amendment 40 embodies everything that is wrong with federal management of our marine resources. It is completely out of step with this nation’s heritage of wildlife resource management,” said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “It has been overwhelmingly opposed at every step in the process, but a very small minority has been allowed to manipulate the system to their personal advantage.”

Amendment 40 is widely regarded as the first step to a catch share program for a privileged few in the charter/for-hire industry, similar to the one in place for the commercial red snapper industry. With passage of this amendment, the way is cleared for up to 70 percent of the entire Gulf red snapper fishery to be privately held, while recreational anglers who fish on their own boats will find their access to federal waters severely limited.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved Amendment 40 by a 10-7 vote in October 2014 over opposition from four Gulf states, Congress, the vast majority of recreational anglers and even from within the charter/for-hire industry itself. In the immediate aftermath of the vote, eight representatives to the Council submitted a scathing minority report that was ultimately ignored. The amendment was approved by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on April 10.

In its lawsuit, CCA charges that Amendment 40 constitutes agency action that is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, not in accordance with law and in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations. The lawsuit has been filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.