US judge rules cod quota set-asides for Alaskan cities are unlawful

Washington, D.C. Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kelly ruled March 21 that the North Pacific Council’s Amendment 113 (A113) to the Bering Sea Groundfish Fisheries Management Plan does not comply with Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) requirements.

The amendment, adopted in 2016, provided 5,000 metric tons of Pacific cod as a set-aside for processing facilities located west of 170 degrees longitude. It named the specific cities of Adak and Atka in the US state of Alaska and the plants located there as the plants that would benefit from this set-aside.

Shortly after the amendment was adopted in late 2016, the Groundfish Forum, United Catcher Boats and other groups who rely on cod, flatfish, and other groundfish in the Bering Sea, filed a complaint challenging the rule, based on five separate claims for relief.  

They contended first, that the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) didn’t have the authority to “allocate shore-based processing privileges” and overstepped its authority with this amendment.

The plaintiff’s second, third, and fourth claims alleged that the amendment is inconsistent with National Standards 4, 5, and 8, respectively, principles that fishery management plans must follow.

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