Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association v. Raimondo
Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument—established by President Obama in 2016—is the first and only national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean.
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 hot spot 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. NRDC and our partners—the Conservation Law Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Zack Klyver, a whale-watch naturalist in Maine—intervened in the litigation to defend the monument’s legality. In 2018, the district court issued a thorough decision upholding the legality of the monument and dismissing the complaint. The following year, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and upheld the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act to protect fragile ocean ecosystems.
Despite having defended the monument’s legality in court, last June, then-president Trump signed a proclamation purporting to strip it of its core protection and reopen the area to commercial fishing. Around the same time, fishing industry groups filed a petition for certiorari, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the D.C. Circuit’s 2019 decision. NRDC and our partners and the U.S. Solicitor General opposed the cert petition. On March 22, 2021—in a victory for national monuments and for ocean conservation—the high court declined to hear the industry groups’ case. The commercial fishing industry’s attack has now failed at every level of the federal courts.
That’s a victory, and yet the fight to save Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is far from over. NRDC and our partners are still in court—in Conservation Law Foundation v. Biden—challenging President Trump’s unlawful rollback proclamation. On his first day in office, January 20, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order launching a review of Trump’s rollbacks to three national monuments—Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Grand Staircase–Escalante, and Bears Ears. We are urging President Biden to restore full protections to all three monuments.
*Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association v. Raimondo was originally named Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association v. Ross.
WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court unanimously ruled today that presidents have the authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish marine national monuments.