Conservation Law Foundation v. Biden (Northeast Canyons and Seamounts)

An octopus on the seafloor at Physalia Seamount in Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument

NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

On June 5, 2020, then-president Trump signed a proclamation purporting to roll back protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the first and only marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean.

Roughly 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, the monument encompasses a cluster of undersea canyons and seamounts and the exceptionally diverse ocean ecosystems in and around them. This biodiversity hot spot offers food, shelter, and nursery habitat to a diverse range of marine life, including puffins, whales, sea turtles, and numerous species of rare deep-sea cold-water corals. President Obama established the monument in 2016 to protect these ecosystems from damage by commercial fishing and other extractive activities, keeping them intact for future generations.

President Trump’s proclamation purported to reopen this special area to commercial fishing. Within two weeks, NRDC and our partners—the Conservation Law Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Zack Klyver, a whale-watch naturalist based in Maine—filed a lawsuit challenging the president’s action as unlawful.

Like our lawsuits that challenge President Trump’s 2017 proclamations dismantling Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante national monuments, our position asserts that the president had no statutory or constitutional authority to abolish protections for an existing national monument. Since we filed our lawsuit, President Trump’s term in office ended and, on his first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order initiating a review of Trump’s rollbacks to national monuments. We are urging President Biden to fulfill his promise and restore full protections to all three monuments.

Meanwhile, NRDC and our partners have continued to defend the monument’s legality against a fishing industry challenge in Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association v. Raimondo. The federal district court rejected the industry plaintiffs’ claims in 2018, and in December 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously affirmed and upheld the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act to establish marine national monuments. The industry tried to take the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court—but on March 22, 2021, the high court declined to hear the case.

*Conservation Law Foundation v. Biden was originally named Conservation Law Foundation v. Trump.

Last Updated

March 22, 2021



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