Atlantic herring fishermen take government to court over at-sea monitor requirement

Published on
February 27, 2020

A group of New Jersey fishermen have filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to block a ruling that would require them to pay to carry independent monitors on their vessels during their fishing trips.

The suit, filed on Wednesday, 19 February, in the District of Columbia, came after the U.S. Department  of Commerce approved an amendment sought by the New England Fishery Management Council to improve clarity regarding landings data in the Atlantic herring fishery.

The rule is set to take effect on 9 March, and that led to eight companies to come together to take legal action.

“Despite years of adverse feedback from fishermen and other stakeholders concerning the absence of statutory authority for industry-funded monitoring in the Atlantic herring fishery (and in other fisheries) – and in the face of the predicted negative economic impact – Defendants nevertheless pushed through the regulation at hand,” the complaint said.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Cause of Action Institute.

In a release, the institute said the cost of an at-sea monitor is expected to be USD 700 (EUR 644) per day. That projects to cost the fishermen about 20 percent of their income.

Six of the companies are the primary supplier to Lund’s Fisheries Inc. In a statement, Lund’s Director of Sustainability and Government Relations Jeff Kaelin said in a statement at-sea monitoring is an onerous regulation for the industry.

“The herring trawl fishery has been vilified and over-regulated, with little demonstrated biological benefit to the herring resource, for too long,” he said. “If our vessels are forced to pay these at-sea monitoring fees, it may drive some of us out of business, as several boats have already been forced out of the fishery through reduced quotas and burdensome regulation.”

The federal government has yet to respond to the suit in court.

Photo courtesy of NOAA

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