A federal court has granted the U.S. Department of Commerce’s motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit aiming to block implementation of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, which will require importers to document the catch-to-table distribution chain. Alfa Int’l Seafood, Inc. v. Sullivan, No. 17-0031 (D.D.C., entered August 28, 2017). A group of seafood processing, distribution and retail companies argued that the agency violated federal law in promulgating the rule, alleging it was issued without proper authority or supporting evidence. Several environmental groups previously sought to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the rule, but the court denied their motion.
The court found for the defendants on all issues, finding that Commerce’s authority is broader than the plaintiffs asserted. The plaintiffs argued that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has exclusive regulatory authority over food labeling, but the court pointed to other relevant authorities that can affect labeling, including the trademark protections in the Lanham Act. The court further found sufficient evidence to support Commerce’s conclusions, including the identification of priority species and the determination of a compliance date. Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment to the defendant. The monitoring program is scheduled to launch on January 1, 2018.