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On August 7, 2000, a federal district judge in Seattle enjoined trawling for Alaska groundfish, one of the biggest commercial fisheries in the world. In September 1998, a federal district judge in Virginia issued an order increasing the quota for the summer flounder fishery by almost 400,000 pounds. In 1999 and 2000, a federal district judge in Hawaii issued a series of five court orders closing large portions of the Pacific ocean to fishing and establishing an evolving regime of incredibly specific fishery management measures. In 2002, a federal judge in the District of Columbia issued, then rescinded, an order imposing fifty specific management measures on the New England groundfish fishery ranging from bag limits, to closed areas, to observer coverage requirement. The growing number of court orders that appear to judicially manage our federal fisheries requires us to consider these remedies in light of Constitutional notions of separation of powers, as well as to consider their practical implications. Understanding these injunctions and what they mean requires an exploration of the roots of agency regulatory authority, a review of the statutes governing federal fisheries management, and a review of the recent lines of cases resulting in these surprising remedies. This paper will provide this overview, then consider the outcomes of these cases from the perspectives of the litigants, the public, and the resource.



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