Trump administration seeks dismissal of Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument lawsuit

Published on
April 19, 2018

Despite its willingness to review the designations made by its predecessor, the Trump Administration is at least defending former President Obama’s ability to create national monuments. That’s according to a filing in federal court earlier this week.

Jeffrey H. Wood, acting assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources division, entered a motion on 16 April to dismiss a lawsuit filed last year by the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association. The Lobstermen and other fishing groups filed the suit in response to the Obama Administration designating the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in September 2016. 

The Northeast Canyons was the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean, and with that designation, commercial fishing – with certain exclusions for red crab and lobster fishing – is not permitted in the nearly 5,000-square-mile area. Crab and lobster fishing would continue until a seven-year permit expires.

Last year, Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the monuments, which were created under the Antiquities Act. While Zinke has not recommended removing any designation for marine monuments, he has encouraged Trump to open monuments for more commercial fishing opportunities.

In his motion to dismiss, Wood said Congress gave the President the ability to create such monuments.

“This Court cannot review how the President exercised the discretion that Congress granted him to designate and define national monuments in the Antiquities Act,” Wood wrote.  

A lawyer for the fishing groups told SeafoodSource he wasn’t surprised by the government’s motion. 

“The motion to dismiss squarely sets up the exact question we want the court to decide: Whether the Antiquities Act’s authorization of monuments on ‘land owned or controlled by the Federal Government’ extends to the ocean,” said Jonathan Wood, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation. “Thus, the courts will necessarily decide our case on the merits and we should soon know where the district court stands on this issue.”

Other groups in the lawsuit include: The Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association, the Long Island Commercials Fishing Association, the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance, and the Garden State Seafood Association.

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