Unanimous Court of Appeals Rejects State of North Carolina’s Arguments
Tuesday, September 6th, 2022
In a unanimous decision today, the North Carolina Court of Appeals rejected the State of North Carolina’s request for immunity from a lawsuit brought by 86 citizen plaintiffs and the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina to hold the State accountable for mismanaging North Carolina’s coastal fisheries. In July 2021, a Wake County trial judge rejected the State’s request for immunity from the lawsuit. Today, a three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, rejecting the State’s arguments and ruling in favor of the citizen coalition and CCA NC on every issue.
As the Court of Appeals’ opinion explained, the State has “an affirmative duty . . . to preserve the people’s right to fish and harvest fish,” which includes a “duty to preserve fisheries for the benefit of the public” and a “duty to keep fisheries safe from injury, harm, or destruction for all time.” A copy of the Court of Appeals’ decision can be found here.
The Court of Appeals’ unanimous ruling means that the lawsuit will proceed to a stage where the plaintiffs have an opportunity to establish the merits of their claims—claims that CCA NC and the citizen coalition maintain are supported by overwhelming evidence and the State’s own data. “We are gratified by the Court of Appeals’ unanimous decision, which reaffirms over a century of precedent and upholds a constitutional amendment ratified by approximately 60% of the voters,” said CCA NC’s Executive Director, David Sneed. “We look forward to proving our case on the merits and ensuring that a legacy of sustainable coastal fisheries will be there for all our children and grandchildren.”
“The complaint we filed speaks for itself, and CCA NC is not opposed to commercial fishing. Instead, CCA NC seeks to be a champion, on behalf of all North Carolinians, for the resource itself in the form of responsible resource management. Just as the future for public anglers will be brighter when the State does its job as resource trustee and reforms coastal fisheries management to rebuild and restore every public fish stock, so too will the future be brighter for commercial fishing as harvestable stock numbers rebound to historic levels. With responsible state fisheries management, CCA NC fully expects to see both robust public fisheries and a thriving commercial fishing industry in North Carolina.”