Sustainability goals, climate change impacts, international treaties, tribal rights, and environmental advocacy group objectives are among the competing interests that U.S. commercial fisheries operators and processors balance to preserve commercial viability and thrive in a dynamic marketplace. This natural resource industry sector is highly regulated and often involved in complex litigation.

At Stoel Rives, our attorneys represent individual commercial operators and processors, plus related industry trade associations that are navigating the federal regulatory frameworks governing fisheries management, environmental protection, and operations on the high seas.  Industry trade associations praise Stoel Rives’ success in their challenges to regulatory agency actions and federal permitting decisions. Our experience includes compliance and litigation arising under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and federal and state pollution control statutes. Our attorneys understand the relevant laws and the regulatory agency process, and we are effective advocates in the venues where commercial and environmental protection interests converge. 

Our success in the fisheries industry can be attributed to our constructive working relationships with regulators and public officials to identify the common ground needed to achieve our clients’ goals. Stoel Rives’ reputation for excellence in environmental and natural resources law derives, in part, from our successful results in significant, high-profile cases involving the interests of the U.S. commercial fisheries industry. Our experiences are rooted in Hawaii, Alaska, and the Pacific Coast. Our capabilities and subject matter leadership are nationally recognized. 

As business counsel to the U.S. commercial fisheries industry, Stoel Rives’ corporate, litigation, and antitrust advisors develop strategies and achieve results for our clients with the benefit of experience acquired through our targeted industry focus. Stoel Rives attorneys produce excellent legal work for our clients enhanced by fundamental fisheries industry knowledge. 

Our Services

  • Advocacy and litigation in response to ESA listing petitions, critical habitat designations, and Section 7 consultations
  • Compliance with MMPA take reduction plans, catch share (IFQ) programs, and negligible impact determinations
  • MSA permitting and regulatory compliance
  • Corporate, environmental, and litigation counsel to seafood processing companies 
  • Antitrust compliance, investigation response, and enforcement defense


  • Conservation Council for Hawaii v. NMFS, No. 14-00528 (D. Hawaii).  Counsel to the Hawaii Longline Association (HLA) in the successful defense of advocacy group claims that regulation of fishery violates the MSA, international treaty provisions and other federal laws.  The court ruled in favor of HLA and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and dismissed the lawsuit. 
  • Turtle Island Restoration Network v. U.S. Dep’t of Commerce, 2013 WL 4511314 (D. Haw. Aug. 23, 2013).  We assisted HLA in  a regulatory process in which NMFS authorized regulations implementing an MSA amendment involving the Hawaii-based longline swordfish fishery, engaged in associated ESA Section 7 consultation, and received an incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).  We represented HLA in the successful defense of claims by two advocacy groups challenging the regulations and the MBTA permit under the MSA, APA, ESA and MBTA.  This case is currently pending on appeal in the Ninth Circuit. 
  • Represent the Hawaii longline fishing industry in the negotiations and development regarding a take reduction plan for false killer whales under the MMPA. 
  • Counsel to the Hawaii-based commercial longline tuna and swordfish fisheries regarding ESA compliance, consultation and listing petitions; MSA, MMPA, MBTA and NEPA compliance; and compliance with U.S. law and international treaties regarding Pacific fisheries conservation and management.
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