Judge rules federal plan to restore sardine population was insufficient

Environmentalists sued the federal government, arguing that the decline of the sardine population in the Pacific Ocean was not prevented by the government.

A California judge ruled that a federal plan to rebuild the sardine population in the Pacific was insufficient and failed to prevent overfishing.

The ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Virginia DeMarchi came as a victory to environmentalists. 


The big picture: The National Marine Fisheries Service was sued by the nonprofit Oceana in 2021, claiming that Pacific sardines had collapsed by over 98% between 2006 and 2020.

  • As well as being eaten by humans, sardines are considered essential for whales, dolphins, sea lions, pelicans and salmon. 
  • The Fisheries Service must develop a plan that supports rebuilding and set “hard, science-based caps on how many fish could be caught each year,” according to the judge’s order.
  • The judge declined to grant some of Oceana’s motions, including one asking that she order a new environmental impact statement.
  • The parties have been ordered to discuss and submit proposals for a remedy by May 6.

What they’re saying: “We’re grateful that the court followed the science and recognized the need for a real plan with enforceable catch limits that will rebuild Pacific sardines for a healthy, abundant, and resilient ocean,” said Dr. Geoff Shester, a senior scientist for Oceana, in a statement. 

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