November 21, 2016 — When President Barack Obama announced in September the creation of the first ever marine national monument in U.S. Atlantic waters, 50 environmental organizations claimed victory in the long campaign to protect approximately 4,000 square miles of ocean from fishing and other human activities.
Since then, there has been another kind of victory. Donald Trump, once a long shot presidential candidate, will succeed Obama in January. During his campaign, the president-elect made promises to roll back environmental roadblocks to business and to cancel every “unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order” by the sitting president.
While some in the fishing community took heart that Trump might reverse Obama’s decision on the offshore monument, legal experts believe there is little chance of that happening. Instead, opponents of the designation will likely have to use the more difficult and lengthy routes of congressional legislation or litigation to get it changed.
“We certainly hope that the new administration will look at commercial fishermen as working men and women that are in historic family businesses,” said David Frulla, an attorney based in Washington, D.C., who represents the Fisheries Survival Fund, a coalition that includes the majority of scallop vessels from Maine to Virginia.
The Trump transition team did not respond to an emailed request for comment for this story.
“There’s nothing in there (the Antiquities Act of 1906) that says they can’t rescind or modify,” Frulla said.
Some, including fishermen, the New England and Mid-Atlantic fishery management councils, and Gov. Charlie Baker, complained that Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act was an end run around fishery management. Both councils are developing protections for deep-sea corals and the New England council is getting close to completing a plan to protect fish habitat that it has been laboring on for over a decade.