BUELLTON, CA / ACCESSWIRE / August 8, 2019 / The California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) has filed to intervene in a lawsuit filed by environmental group Oceana over California's northern anchovy fishery. The filing will allow CWPA to participate in the lawsuit to protect the interests of California fishermen and processors who would face significant economic harm if the lawsuit were successful.
The lawsuit alleges that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) must set stricter limits on the northern anchovy catch. As the result of a recent Oceana lawsuit, where the Court required NMFS to revise its catch rule, the catch limit is currently set at 23,573 metric tons, which, according to NMFS estimates, is only 25 percent of the stock's overfishing level.
Not only are additional restrictions on the anchovy harvest unnecessary, but greater cuts would result in significant job loss and economic hardship for California's wetfish industry and coastal communities.
"If [Oceana] prevails in this case, there could be a drastic reduction from current harvest levels," said CWPA in its filing. "Such a reduction in harvest opportunity will seriously and irreparably harm CWPA members and the wetfish industry."
Anchovy fishing off the California coast
This would affect not just California wetfish fishermen, who rely on anchovy when other species, like squid or mackerel, are unavailable, but also the processors, distributors, and seaside businesses who rely on a consistent catch. If lower catch limits are approved, the jobs of at least 400 CWPA members alone will be at risk, as well as many thousands more in related industries.
"Fishermen up and down the California coast are facing threats to their livelihoods from this frivolous and unnecessary lawsuit," said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of CWPA. "We are asking to be involved in this lawsuit to ensure that the Court also considers the needs and concerns of our members and California's coastal communities. Our fishery management policy mandates balance between protecting the ocean and sustaining fishing communities "
The sharply reduced catch limits that Oceana seeks are not scientifically justified. The basis for Oceana's case is a single, flawed study that significantly underestimated the size of the anchovy population, in 2015, leading to the first Court decision, That study excluded the abundance of anchovy in inshore areas, for example. Cooperative surveys that CWPA has conducted with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have documented tens of thousands of tons of anchovies in these areas that have simply not been counted in stock assessments. . This finding contradicts the argument that the anchovy population was dangerously low, and that the already precautionary catch levels must be reduced further.
"The best available science does not support Oceana's position," said Ms. Pleschner-Steele. " The Court needs to allow NMFS to set appropriate catch limits based on sound science."
About the California Wetfish Producers Association
The non-profit California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) was established in 2004 to promote sustainable fisheries and foster cooperative research. Voluntary membership includes the majority of wetfish harvesters and processors operating in California.
SOURCE: California Wetfish Producers Association
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