Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association v. Ross
NRDC and our partners—the Conservation Law Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity, and a whale-watch naturalist based in Maine—continue to prevail in our defense of the first and only national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean: Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
Roughly 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the monument protects a cluster of undersea canyons and seamounts with extraordinary ecological and scientific importance. This biodiversity hotspot offers food, shelter, and nursery habitat to a diverse range of marine life, including puffins, whales, and sea turtles. Scientists have found more than 60 species of deep-sea cold-water corals living in the monument, as well as numerous other rare and vulnerable marine species.
In 2017, five fishing industry groups filed a lawsuit seeking to abolish the monument and open it to commercial fishing. To protect the monument and the unique marine ecosystem it supports, NRDC and our partners intervened in the litigation, and filed a brief supporting the federal government’s motion to dismiss the groups’ complaint, explaining that the monument was lawfully created. On October 5, 2018, the district court issued a thorough decision upholding the legality of the monument and dismissing the complaint. The fishing industry groups appealed the decision to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. On December 27, 2019, the D.C. Circuit rejected the groups’ challenge, affirmed the district court, and once again upheld the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act to protect fragile ocean ecosystems from industrial exploitation and preserve them for generations to come.
But the fight to save Northeast Canyons and Seamounts isn’t over. In June 2020, the fishing industry groups filed a petition for certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the D.C. Circuit’s decision; cert briefing is ongoing. Meanwhile, also in June 2020, President Trump signed a proclamation purporting to strip the monument of its core protection and reopen it to commercial fishing. NRDC and our partners swiftly filed a new lawsuit—called Conservation Law Foundation v. Trump—challenging the proclamation. As with our litigation defending Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, NRDC and our partners in Conservation Law Foundation are challenging the president’s action as unlawful and seeking to restore monument protections to Northeast Canyons and Seamounts.
WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court unanimously ruled today that presidents have the authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish marine national monuments.