Federal Court Upholds Decision to Open the Fall-Run Chinook Salmon Fishery in California's Central Valley in 2011

On September 30, 2011, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California upheld (pdf) a decision of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to approve management measures developed by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council in conjunction with the Council's decision to open the commercial and recreational fishery for Fall-run Chinook salmon in the Central Valley for the 2011 season.  The NMFS decision had been challenged by the San Joaquin River Group Authority, a California joint powers authority made up of member agencies that own or operate major water infrastructure facilities on the San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers.  The Los Angeles Times reported on the decision, stating that the federal court "killed an effort by a group of Central Valley irrigation districts to stop commercial salmon fishing off the California and Oregon coasts, rejecting claims that the federal government acted improperly when it reopened the season this year." (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 30, 2011, by Bettina Boxall.)

Plaintiff alleged that the decision by NMFS violated the Administrative Procedure Act, Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.  As a threshold matter, the court held that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate it had Article III standing under the Constitution to pursue its claims.  The court further held that, assuming, arguendo, Plaintiff had standing, Plaintiff nonetheless is not entitled to summary judgment on the merits of its claims.  Rather, the court held in favor of Federal Defendants.

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