Family Fishermen Move to Block Industry-Killing At-Sea Monitoring Rule

Herring Fishermen are Fighting Burdensome Regulation, COVID-19, and New, Unlawful Monitoring Requirements to Stay Afloat

Arlington, VA (June 8, 2020) – Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) today filed a motion for summary judgement on behalf of a group of New Jersey fishermen, asking a D.C. Federal Court to vacate job-killing fisheries regulations called the “Omnibus Amendment.” CoA Institute filed suit in February to challenge the industry-killing rule, which requires certain boats in the Atlantic herring fishery to carry “at-sea monitors” at their own cost.

The Omnibus Amendment—designed by the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) and finalized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Commerce—is expected to cost fishermen upwards of $700 a day, leading to a projected 20% drop in returns-to-owner (profit). Not only is this industry already overregulated, but the agencies are forcing this unlawful rule upon fisherman without any statutory authority to do so. Although the current Administration has recently said that it will take steps to lessen the regulatory burden on fishermen, the Omnibus Amendment is a step in the wrong direction. CoA Institute and the fishermen are asking the Court to declare industry-funding unlawful, enjoin Defendants from pursuing it, and vacate the Omnibus Amendment.

Ryan Mulvey, counsel at Cause of Action Institute:

The federal government finalized this lawless regulation despite lacking any legal authority to require these family fishermen to pay for policing by government-contracted employees. The New England Council and NOAA disregarded their lack of congressional authorization and shirked the necessary statutory and procedural standards. We are hopeful the court will deem industry-funding unlawful and set aside the Omnibus Amendment—helping save one of our nation’s most-storied professions.

Jeff Kaelin, Director of Sustainability and Government Relations at Lund’s Fisheries, Inc., representative for the Plaintiffs:

Herring fisherman have long worked with the Councils to advance conservation and sustainability measures for the fishery. But the Omnibus Amendment will not advance any of those goals. The over-regulation that plagues this industry has already driven vessels out of business. If boats are forced to take on the additional cost of at-sea monitors, the results for our businesses will be fatal for many, especially small, family-owned firms.

The implementation of industry-funded monitoring comes during an especially difficult economic period, as parts of the commercial fishing industry across the Eastern seaboard suffer from the economic downturn spurred by COVID-19.  Since the outbreak of the pandemic, NOAA has repeatedly delayed implementation of industry funding, both in the herring fishery and others, and waived the requirement to carry an observer through July 1, 2020.  The devastating impact of the Omnibus Amendment could not come at a worse time.

The complaint can be viewed HERE. The MSJ can be viewed HERE.

CoA Institute recently wrote a letter to the President thanking him for his recent Executive Order helping the fishing industry and asking him to intervene on coercive fishing regulations. The letter can be viewed HERE.

Plaintiffs are represented by CoA Institute counsels Ryan P. Mulvey and Eric R. Bolinder.

Media Contact: James Valvo, | (571) 482-4182