Court Confirms Decision Rejecting Outdated Catch Limit for California Anchovy Fishery - Oceana USA

Court Confirms Decision Rejecting Outdated Catch Limit for California Anchovy Fishery

Federal Judge Dismisses Fisheries Service Attempts to Avoid Management Overhaul

Press Release Date: June 14, 2018

Location: Monterey, CA


Dustin Cranor, APR | email: | tel: 954.348.1314


A federal judge confirmed her January 2018 decision requiring the National Marine Fisheries Service (Fisheries Service) to use the best available science to reconsider the annual catch limit and other limits to prevent overfishing for the central sub-population of northern anchovy.

The January 2018 court decision was in response to a lawsuit brought by Oceana, represented by Earthjustice, and found that the Fisheries Service violated the nation’s fishery law when it set an annual catch limit of 25,000 metric tons (mt) for anchovy. The agency set this limit using information from more than two decades ago, and ignored both recently published science and the agency’s own estimates of the 2015 population size, which ranged from 15,000 to 32,000 mt. Thus, by not using best available science, the agency set a catch limit that could exceed the entire population.

In response to the judge’s January decision, the Fisheries Service tried to skirt its responsibility by asking the judge to limit the ruling to the annual catch limit, which might have allowed the agency to continue avoiding consideration of other critical factors of allowable biological catch and overfishing limit related to preventing overfishing of anchovy and to provide enough food for predators dependent on anchovy.

“This decision holds the government’s feet to the fire,” said Mariel Combs, Senior Pacific Counsel for Oceana. “The Fisheries Service must uphold the fundamental standards intended by Congress, and sustainably manage our nation’s fisheries for the benefit of both fishermen and marine life.”

“The court’s most recent decision underscores that the Fisheries Service needs to stop wasting time ignoring science and resisting its obligations,” said Andrea Treece, Staff attorney for Earthjustice. “It must update the limits it uses to prevent overfishing and ensure sustainable catch levels now, so they reflect reality rather than dusty, disproven assumptions.”

The court’s decision confirming its original ruling to strike down the Fisheries Service 2016 decision and require the agency to promulgate new harvest limits based on the best available science can be accessed here.

Additional background can be accessed here.

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world’s wild fish catch. With over 200 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit to learn more.