Issues and Cases

Fishermen challenge Obama midnight monument in the Atlantic Ocean

Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association v. Ross


Contact: Jonathan Wood, Todd Gaziano, or Johanna B. Talcott

Status: Complaint filed.
 
Summary:
In the final months of the Obama Administration, the President engaged in what has unfortunately been a favorite pastime of recent presidents — abusing their power under the Antiquities Act.  Declaring over 5,000-square miles of ocean 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod to be the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument, the President closed off an area the size of Connecticut to fishing with the mere stroke of a pen.  This unilateral decision will significantly harm east coast communities who depend on a vibrant fishing economy.

Representing a broad coalition of fishermen, Pacific Legal Foundation is challenging this abuse of presidential power.  This monument designation clearly exceeds the President’s power under the Antiquities Act.  That statute authorizes monuments on “land owned or controlled by the Federal Government.”  The ocean is not land nor is it owned or controlled by the federal government.  But that did not stop the President from charging ahead, regardless of the impacts on the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on access to these waters.

More than just a job, fishing has been a way of life and source of pride in east coast communities for generations.  Today, that pride is shown in the laudable efforts of fishermen to promote sustainability.  PLF’s clients, for instance, have spent years to improve their methods and equipment and to retire excess fishing permits, knowing that these costly sacrifices will provide long-term benefits to their industry and the environment.  The monument designation undermines those efforts, by depriving the fishermen of any reward for their sacrifices.

Former President Obama ran away with the crown for biggest abuser of the Antiquities Act in presidential history.  During his tenure, he unilaterally withdrew 553-million acres from productive use.  Those decisions tremendously affect countless jobs and small communities.  The designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument is a prime example of how the abuse of that statute has gone far beyond the power authorized by Congress in 1906.  Simply put, if “lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government” include the ocean far beyond the nation’s territory, there’s no limit to the mischief the President could cause under the Antiquities Act.

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