Second lawsuit filed in at-sea monitoring dispute

Published on
March 10, 2020

A second lawsuit has been filed in a U.S. federal courthouse against a rule, scheduled to take effect Monday, 9 March, that would require Atlantic herring fishermen to pay for independent monitors aboard their vessels.

Seafreeze Fleet LLC and two vessels it owns filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NOAA Fisheries in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island last week. It comes a couple of weeks after New Jersey fishermen filed a similar lawsuit over the rule.

The rule was proposed by the New England Fishery Management Council to gain clarity regarding landings data. Federal officials expect the cost for the monitor to be onboard the vessel for fishing trips to be about USD 710 (EUR 619) per day.

In its lawsuit, Seafreeze said its vessels, the Relentless and the Huntress, will be unfairly affected by the rule.

Unlike other vessels that fish for herring, the two Seafreeze boats harvest other species as well. The boats also have a freezer that allow them to stay out for a week or two instead of the two-to-three day trips other herring vessels typically take.

Because of the nature of its vessels, either of them could declare to fish for herring and end up only catching squid, butterfish, or other species.

“If plaintiffs are unable to use the flexible style of fishing they have developed – due to the costs associated with the IFM Amendment and the Final Rule – it could result in fishing trips losing rather than making money,” the lawsuit said.

The New Civil Liberties Alliance filed the case on behalf of Seafreeze. In its statement, the group claims agencies such as NOAA Fisheries cannot fund themselves without Congressional approval. Lawmakers, it claims, appropriated funds for the monitors.

A spokeswoman for the organization told SeafoodSource the suit was filed in Rhode Island because that’s where the client is based.

“NCLA filed this case on behalf of our clients because the administrative state’s effort to fund itself, completely outside Congressional appropriations and authorization, must be stopped,” NCLA Senior Litigation Counsel John Vecchione said in a statement. “These runaway agencies cannot create an ‘off-the-books’ source of funding when Congress has already decided how much money to give them.”

Photo courtesy of Dan Logan/Shutterstock

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