New Hampshire fleet dwindles as at-sea monitoring decision heads to Supreme Court

Published on
July 28, 2017

A New Hampshire fisherman leading the fight against a decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to shift the cost of at-sea monitoring to industry has appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

David Goethel of Hampton, New Hampshire, said he filed the appeal in early July. He is challenging the decision of a federal district court and the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in NOAA’s favor, according to the Associated Press.

Goethal, who filed his original suit in December 2015, has been joined in his appeal by the Northeast Fishery Sector 13, which represents fishermen from Massachusetts to North Carolina. His legal support is being provided pro bono by the Cause for Action Institute.

NOAA ceased paying for sea-monitoring in March, forcing the cost onto commercial fishermen. The shift came at the same time the New England groundfish fishery has been struggling with difficult fishing, including reduced numbers of cod.

In the time the case has been moving from hearing to appeal, the New Hampshire commercial groundfish fleet has dwindled from nine to five vessels, according to Seacoast Online. Goethel said that is due to the high cost of fishing regulations, including the approximately USD 700 (EUR 597) per day boat owners must spend to pay for the monitors, who must by law be present on a certain percentage of fishing trips each vessel takes.

In June, Goethel said he made USD 650 (EUR 554) for the month, while his crew made USD 400 (EUR 341) each, after the cost of leasing quotas and the six days he paid for at-sea observers. Prior to the imposition of the more stringent regulations, Goethel said he USD 12,000 (EUR 10,231) per month personally and his crew earned USD 8,000 (EUR 6,820) each.

“(Now) I can’t go groundfishing because I can’t afford it between the price of leased fish and the price of observers,” Goethel told the newspaper.

In Goethel’s appeal to the Supreme Court, he argues that NOAA’s requirement of at-sea monitors represents an illegal, warrantless search of private property, and that forcing the industry to pay for its own monitoring represents a violation of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

In his rejection of the appeal, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph LePlante said it was after the statute of limitations had expired. But he added that even if it had been filed within the 30-day time limit, none of Goethel’s arguments had merit.

Goethel has said publicly that he plans sell his boat if he loses the lawsuit. 

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