Federal Court Delivers Major Victory for Oceans, National Monuments

WASHINGTON – A federal court today dismissed an industry challenge to the first marine national monument in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean. 

The following is a statement by Kate Desormeau, Attorney and Managing Litigator for the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“This is a huge victory. In dismissing this case, the court made clear that the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is a legally established marine national monument. The fishing industry groups had argued—in effect—that the president does not have power under the Antiquities Act to protect ocean areas and important marine resources. The court rejected those arguments, and that’s a major win that benefits all the country’s marine monuments. 

As today’s decision recognizes, the Antiquities Act exists to protect special places for all time, and that includes protecting ocean ecosystems from destructive extractive activities like commercial fishing and oil and gas drilling. Scientists agree that protecting ocean areas like Northeast Canyons and Seamounts from extractive use is essential for supporting species resiliency in the face of environmental pressures like climate change.”


Fishing industry groups had sued the Trump administration to challenge the legality of President Obama’s designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England. The groups claimed that presidents lack the authority to designate marine monuments. 

In a resounding rejection of those claims, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg affirmed the monument’s legality, writing, “[J]ust 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.”

A copy of the opinion is here.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​