Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Apr 15 2019

Dismissal represents Ferguson’s 19th legal victory against the Administration

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today that the Trump Administration has abandoned its appeal of a U.S. District Court ruling that found it unlawfully tried to block gillnet regulations designed to protect endangered and threatened marine species like whales, dolphins and sea turtles.

The Administration filed a motion for voluntary dismissal of the appeal today, representing Ferguson’s 19th legal victory in lawsuits against the Trump Administration. The state has yet to lose a case against the Trump Administration.

“These rules are designed to protect threatened and endangered species, including humpback whales and sea turtles,” Ferguson said. “I’m not going to allow the Trump Administration to unlawfully roll back these protections.”

After a multi-year public process, the Pacific Fishery Management Council proposed new limits on the “bycatch” of threatened and endangered species in the gillnet fishery in 2016, which the National Marine Fisheries Service initially endorsed. Under the Trump Administration, the National Marine Fisheries Service reversed its endorsement, and refused to publish the final regulations.

Oceana, an environmental advocacy organization, sued over the reversal, accusing the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Marine Fisheries Service of violating the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the Administrative Procedure Act by refusing to publish the final regulations.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in U.S. federal waters. It is named for former Washington state Sen. Warren Magnuson and Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska.

On Oct. 24, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner granted Oceana’s motion for summary judgment, agreeing that the Administration’s reversal violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Washington filed an amicus, or “friend of the court” brief, in support of Oceana’s motion for summary judgment, arguing that the federal government’s actions violated “both the spirit and the letter of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.”

The amicus also pointed out that between 2001 and 2015, bycatch from the drift gillnet fishing industry in California included “approximately six humpback whales, nine sperm whales, more than 12 leatherback turtles, 20 loggerhead sea turtles, 14 short-fin pilot whales, and more than six bottlenose dolphins.”

The federal government appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Washington filed a motion to intervene in the appeal in January, which was granted earlier this month. The Administration decided to drop its appeal 15 days later.

Assistant Attorney General Kelly Wood and Special Assistant Attorney General Aurora Janke with the Attorney General’s Counsel for Environmental Protection handled the case for Washington.

Attorney General Ferguson created the Counsel for Environmental Protection in 2016 to protect our environment and the safety and health of all Washingtonians.

Ferguson has filed 35 lawsuits against the Trump Administration and has not lost a case. Ferguson now has 19 legal victories against the Trump Administration. Eleven of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed. The Trump Administration has or may appeal the other eight, which include lawsuits involving Dreamers and 3D-printed guns. After more than two years of litigation, no court to rule on the merits of the Attorney General’s arguments in a lawsuit against the Trump Administration has ruled against the office.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov