Conservationists Mull Lawsuits as Feds Roll Back Ocean Protections
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
HARTFORD, Ct. -- Groups that protect the oceans are looking at their legal options after President Donald Trump declared on Friday that commercial fishing soon will be allowed at the only marine national monument in New England.
In 2016, President Barack Obama created the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, about 150 miles off of the Connecticut coast. Gib Brogan, senior campaign manager with Oceana, said the area is special because when the current hits the seamount, it causes an upwelling of nutrients, creating a feeding ground for many protected species.
"Everything from whales and seabirds to deep-sea corals are found in this monument," Brogan said. "And we're concerned that continuing or adding new fishing activity in this monument will undermine the conservation value of the area."
The original monument designation gave lobster and red-crab fishermen until 2023 to wind down their operations, but this proclamation would eliminate that deadline. The president claims the rollback will help revive the post-COVID economy, but studies show the fishing haul from the monument is only 5% of the fishery.
Brogan worries certain types of commercial fishing, currently prohibited in the monument, could make a comeback - destructive practices that kill off a huge percentage of bycatch.
"It excluded fishing with miles-long strings of baited hooks that are used to catch tuna and swordfish," he said. "It has also prohibited these bottom trawls: nets that are dragged along the sea floor that can scoop up and pulverize corals and sponges."
Brogan said it is unclear exactly how the administration plans to deregulate the monument. The fishing industry already has challenged the legality of the monument in court and lost the case.
The Antiquities Act gives the president the power to create new national monuments but does not grant the power to rescind them.
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