On Tuesday, fishermen Patrick Fehily and David T. Malley filed a complaint in the District of New Jersey against President Biden, Gina Raimondo as Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce, and Deb Haaland as Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, alleging the defendants exceeded their authority under the Antiquities Act and the Constitution.
According to the complaint, Fehily is a New Jersey resident and Malley is a Massachusetts resident; both own and operate commercial fishing vessels that participate in Atlantic Ocean fisheries. The complaint states that, for years, the plaintiffs have conducted commercial fishing operations in the area now referred to as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
The complaint explains that on October 8, 2021, President Biden issued Proclamation 10287 which gave the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument a Monument Designation under the Antiquities Act. The complaint states that the Proclamation created a 5,000 square mile area of the Atlantic ocean between two and 200 nautical miles off the nation’s coasts as an Exclusive Economic Zone. The plaintiffs state that Proclamation 10287 bans or phases out commercial fishing within the Monument Designation’s waters and protects “ecosystems” and “biodiversity,” such as fish, as “objects of historic or scientific interest” under the Antiquities Act.
The plaintiffs argue that the Monument Designation’s waters have been an important commercial fishery for decades, and Proclamation 10287 prevents fishermen like the plaintiffs from using the fishery’s resources to practice their trade. Further, the plaintiffs state that Proclamation 10287 exceeds the President ’s authority under the Antiquities Act and violates the Constitution’s Separation of Powers.
First, the plaintiffs state that the Act limits the designation of national monuments to “lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government,” and the waters of Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is not land under the act nor owned by the Federal Government. Next, the Act limits designation to “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest,” and “ecosystems” and the “biodiversity” contained within them are not “objects” that he can designate as, or as part of, a national monument under the Act.
Further, the plaintiffs argue that Proclamation 10287 violates the Constitution’s Separation of Powers because Congress has not delegated to the President the power to ban commercial fishing under the Antiquities Act.
Accordingly, the plaintiffs bring the present case claiming ultra vires executive action under the Antiquities Act and the U.S. Constitution and seek injunctive and declaratory relief, attorney’s fees and costs. The plaintiffs are represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation.