March 10, 2017 — Unhappy that a Connecticut-sized area off the coast of New England has become a commercial-fishing-free zone, lobstermen and other groups are asking a federal judge to find that President Barack Obama lacked the authority to designate the nation’s first marine monument.
Obama created the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument this past September, a move that banned oil and gas exploration within the monument area almost immediately, as well as most commercial fishing. Fishing of lobster and red crab is allowed to continue only for the next seven years.
In a March 7 federal complaint, the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association and four other groups say that designation affects nearly 5,000 square miles of Atlantic Ocean that has been an important commercial fishery for decades.
“For centuries, the Georges Bank has supported lucrative fisheries,” the complaint states. “The iconic fishing communities of New England and throughout the East Coast sprang up because of the value of this fishery.”
The commercial fishers say restrictions associated with the monument are causing irreparable harm.