Feds beat fishermen: Court dismisses challenge to Atlantic monument

A federal judge upheld the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument last week, dismissing a lawsuit from commercial fishing groups that challenged presidential authority to establish the monument.

The national monument, created by former President Barack Obama, was authorized under the Antiquities Act. Representatives from the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association argued that the act does not include authorization to protect bodies of water and that the monument in question, an area of nearly 5,000 square miles, was too large.

But U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument complied with the law and sided with the Trump administration’s motion to dismiss the suit.

“In all, plaintiffs offer no factual allegations explaining why the entire monument, including not just the seamounts and canyons but also their ecosystems, is too large,” wrote Boasberg in his decision.

He also clarified that the Antiquities Act histories grant that waterways, as well as land, can be protected under the act.

“The Antiquities Act reaches lands both dry and wet,” he wrote.

Jonathan Wood, an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation, who represented the lobstermen’s group, said the decision was “disappointing,” but did not comment to say whether an appeal of the ruling was in store for the association.

“For a full century after the Antiquities Act was enacted in 1906, presidents respected its limit to ‘land owned or controlled by the federal government’ by not designating national monuments on the ocean beyond the nation’s territorial sea,” he said. “Today’s decision ignored that century of practice and all but eliminated any limits on the president’s monument —designation authority.”

Proponents of the monument say it is necessary to protect deep-sea corals and vulnerable species of marine life, such as right whales. In September, the New England Aquarium released a report confirming the abundance and diversity of large marine wildlife in the area.

About the author

Samuel Hill

Samuel Hill is associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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