Energy & Environment

Trump administration sued over marine monument rollback

Environmentalists sued the Trump administration on Wednesday over the president’s decision to allow commercial fishing in a protected marine monument designated by former President Obama. 

President Trump issued a proclamation this month that would reopen the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, 130 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, for commercial fishing. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Biological Diversity and others have filed suit, claiming that Trump’s rollback was outside the scope of presidential authority. 

“Congress authorized the President to ‘designate’ national monuments and to ‘reserve’ lands and waters for the protection of objects of historic or scientific interest, but not to undo such designations or to abolish such reservations, in whole or in part,” their suit says. 

They also argued that allowing commercial fishing at the monument will probably harm endangered and threatened species and interfere with scientific research. 

“Northeast Canyons and Seamounts was created to protect a complex web of marine life — including endangered whales, sea turtles, and centuries-old deep-sea corals — from extractive activities,” said NRDC senior attorney Kate Desormeau in a statement. 

“President Trump does not have the power to unravel this national monument or any other, and we’re asking the court to stop the administration from opening this unique and fragile ocean area to commercial fishing,” Desormeau added. 

Trump last month announced the proclamation during a roundtable with fishermen in Maine. 

“America is blessed with some of the richest ocean resources anywhere in the world — except when they close it up,” he said, lamenting a nearly $17 billion seafood trade deficit

The move was supported by fishing groups, who said that allowing fishing in the area would generate millions of dollars for their industry. 

Obama established the monument in 2016 to protect deep-sea environments and marine life. Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is home to or visited by animals such as whales, dolphins, turtles, swordfish, sharks, Atlantic puffins and deep-sea coral.

Some commercial activities are still going at the monument, such as crab and lobster fishing, which isn’t prohibited by Obama’s executive order until 2023. 

In 2016, several fishing groups from across the Northeast, including the Massachusetts Lobsterman’s Association, sued in an attempt to overturn the monument designation and keep the area open to industry. 

A judge dismissed the suit last year, ruling that presidents have wide authority to establish marine monuments.

Tags Center for Biological Diversity Commercial fishing Donald Trump Fishing marine monuments Natural Resources Defense Council Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument NRDC

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