President Donald Trump has until April 16th to either follow his Interior secretary’s recommendations to relax fishing restrictions in marine monuments key for American Samoa and Atlantic coast fishermen or let a court challenge to the monuments proceed.
KHJ News Washington correspondent Matt Kaye reports—
A federal court has agreed to allow Atlantic fishermen and lobstermen to proceed with a lawsuit that seeks to reverse Obama-era protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument off the New England coast.
But the case could have a direct bearing on when or how American Samoa’s tuna industry gets relief from fishing restrictions in the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll marine monuments.
The federal court judge has given the Trump Administration until April 16th to respond to the case brought by Atlantic fishermen, challenging the century old Antiquities Act, or follow Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s recommendations to allow commercial fishing in the monuments.
The Atlantic fishermen charge, President Obama “exceeded his power under the Antiquities Act,” when cordoning off the 5-thousand square mile Northeast Canyon monument.
They argue the sea is not “land owned or controlled by the Federal government and thus, not within the president’s proclaiming authority.”
US District Judge James Boasberg agreed last month to lift a10-month stay on the lawsuit, effectively turning up pressure on the Trump Administration to act.
Secretary Zinke recommended to President Trump last September that the administration permit “traditional uses” now restricted,including commercial fishing.
Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen has pressed Zinke, Vice-President Mike Pence and others to end monument restrictions on American Samoa’s all-important tuna industry.
The two Pacific Ocean sites were created by President George W. Bush and later expanded by President Obama.
Zinke concluded after a nearly four-month study that presidents of both parties went too far in limiting commercial activities in protected areas.
There could still be legal battles if President Trump goes ahead with some or all, of the recommendations.
Environmentalists charge fishing within the Pacific Remote Islands and other marine monuments would harm the ecosystems and hurt their ability to replenish tuna and other fisheries.