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CIT Lifts Import Ban on 9 Fish Types From New Zealand

The Court of International Trade on April 1 granted the New Zealand government's motion to dissolve a preliminary injunction banning its fish exports in a challenge to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2020 findings that New Zealand's standards for its West Coast North Island inshore trawl and set net fisheries were comparable to U.S. regulations.

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Judge Gary Katzmann said that the issuance of new comparability findings, which "supersedes the administrative actions underlying the preliminary injunction," amounts to a "significant change in factual conditions and law" warranting the dissolution of the injunction on nine types of seafood from the New Zealand trawl and set net fisheries.

Conservation groups Sea Shepherd New Zealand and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society had sought the import ban under the Marine Mammal Protection Act on fish and fish products caught using gillnets and trawl nets in the Maui dolphin's range. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, an import ban is proper where a region doesn't have protections on wildlife comparable to the U.S.

The trade court previously granted the conservation groups' request for a temporary ban on nine fish types from New Zealand's multispecies set net and trawl fisheries (see 2211280053). In response, NOAA issued new comparability findings, declaring that New Zealand had established that its fisheries satisfy the provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (see 2403210028).

Though the court dissolved the injunction in response, it noted that the opinion "does not preclude future legal challenges to NOAA's new comparability findings." Katzmann said that the "Maui dolphin remains critically endangered, and current estimates indicate that approximately forty-three dolphins remain."

(Sea Shepherd New Zealand v. U.S., Slip Op. 24-37, CIT # 20-00112, dated 04/01/24; Judge: Gary Katzmann; Attorneys: Lia Comerford of Earthrise Law Center at Lewis & Clark Law for plaintiffs Sea Shepherd New Zealand and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society; Stephen Tosini for defendant U.S. government; Warren Connelly of Trade Pacific for defendant-intervenor New Zealand government)