A Washington, D.C., district court lifted a stay Wednesday on a fishing industry lawsuit to reverse a 5,000 square mile marine national monument created off New England’s coast in 2016.
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument will ban fishing in an area roughly the size of Connecticut in less than a decade. Seafood and fishing trade groups are suing to rescind the monument former President Barack Obama crafted near the end of his 2nd term, to restore an area of ocean that has been an important source of lobster and fish for decades, according to the lawsuit.
“Under the President’s unilateral declaration, the entire area is off-limits to many commercial fishermen, with the rest ejected after seven years,” the lawsuit shows.
The lawsuit, filed in March 2017, was placed on hold after President Donald Trump ordered a review of all national monuments created under the 1906 Antiquities Act more than 100,000 acres in size and designated from 1996 forward. The stay was issued in case Trump changed the boundaries of the monument or cut it altogether.
Interior Secretary Zinke recommended months ago Trump remove the fishing prohibition inside the monument, although the president has not taken any action. Absent a decision by Trump, the lawsuit will now move forward, the court said.
The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a non-profit law firm specializing in property-rights litigation, is representing the fishermen and industry groups bringing the lawsuit.
“Fishermen have waited a year for the government to respond to their lawsuit challenging a clear case of Antiquities Act,” PLF Attorney Jonathan Wood said in a statement. “The court’s decision to lift the stay will now require President Trump to decide whether to act on the Secretary’s recommendation or defend President Obama’s unlawful monument decision in Court.”
Obama lacked authority under the Antiquities Act to create a marine national monument, PLF argues.
“The ocean is not ‘land owned or controlled by the Federal government’ and, thus, is not within the President’s monument proclaiming authority,” the lawsuit states. “Even if the President could lawfully declare monuments beyond the United States’ territorial sea, this 5,000 square mile monument would nonetheless violate the Antiquities Act because it is not the smallest area compatible with protecting the canyons and seamounts on which it is purportedly based.”
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