Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association v. Ross

The first and only national monument in the Atlantic Ocean—Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument—is under attack by five fishing industry groups. In 2017, the 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 (the Conservation Law Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity, and a whale-watch naturalist based in Maine) intervened in the lawsuit.

Roughly 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the monument houses 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 50 species of deep-sea cold-water corals living in the monument, as well as numerous other rare and vulnerable marine species.

In 2017, shortly after the fishing industry groups filed their lawsuit seeking to abolish the monument, President Trump issued executive orders calling for the “review” and possible dismantling of numerous national monuments, including Northeast Canyons and Seamounts. NRDC and our partners intervened in the litigation to defend the monument, and filed a brief supporting the federal government’s motion to dismiss the fishing industry 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. Invoking the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt, who signed the Antiquities Act into law, the court held: “Just as President Roosevelt had the authority to establish the Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908 . . . so President Obama could establish the Canyons and Seamounts Monument in 2016.”

The fishing industry groups appealed the district court’s decision to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Briefing is complete, and the court will hear oral argument on October 22, 2019.

Last Updated

August 22, 2019



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