Loper-Bright Enterprises, et. al. v. Raimondo

Location: U.S. Supreme Court | Status: Active

Summary: Save the Sound filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Loper Bright Enterprises vs. Raimondo. The case involves a challenge by a New England-based fishing company to fishery managers’ ability to obtain valuable data they need to manage our fisheries effectively.   

In Loper Bright, the Court has agreed to re-examine the Chevron deference doctrine, a 40-year-old Supreme Court principle under which federal courts defer to a federal agency’s reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute that Congress has authorized the agency to administer. The industries and lawyers behind this case filed it as part of a decades-long campaign to use the Supreme Court to shift power away from the branches of government that are most responsive to everyday Americans and move it to the federal courts. 

The underlying case, and the specific reason we filed the brief, involves a challenge to a decision by the New England Fishery Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to use at-sea observers to gather much needed data about the Atlantic herring fishery. The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires the Secretary of Commerce, who oversees NMFS, to promulgate fisheries management plans that prevent overfishing, requires that those plans reflect “the best scientific information available” and also states that management plans may “require that one or more observers be carried on board” operating fishing vessels. 

Under the herring observer plan, the largest fishing vessels in the fishery are required to bear some of the costs of obtaining that data. The fishing companies who sued in Loper Bright argue that the Magnuson-Stevens Act does not give NMFS the authority to require fishermen to pay for observers to monitor their use of public waters. A district court rejected that argument, and a court of appeals upheld the district court’s ruling by applying the Chevron deference doctrine, as Supreme Court precedent requires. 

When Congress passed the Magnuson-Stevens Act with bipartisan support in 1976, it was addressing a serious problem: 20% of all known fish stocks had been overfished. Nearly 50 years later, many fisheries still struggle to produce sustainable yields, threatening resources that belong to all of us and the livelihoods of those who harvest them.  

 “On-board observers, in many cases industry-funded, have been an indispensable part of preventing overfishing and maintaining healthy populations since the birth of the Act,” said Save the Sound Senior Legal Director Roger Reynolds. “By way of example, Long Island Sound river herring have suffered a precipitous drop in the last several years, and good data from observers is critical to understand and address the issue. Industries are routinely required to bear the costs of compliance with environmental protection and other regulatory schemes and the Justices should reject the invitation to rewrite the law.” 

The brief was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Save the Sound, Ocean Conservancy and Conseravation Law Foundation.  

Latest Step: Filed U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief.  

Next Step: Awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Further Reading:  

Action Opportunities: 

Last Updated: November 8, 2023

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