SOURCE: National Geographic

DATE: June 5, 2020

SNIP: President Trump vowed Friday to open the nation’s only national monument in the Atlantic Ocean to commercial fishing, saying he was giving Maine back part of its history and the fishermen their industry.

He signed a proclamation declaring the opening after attending a roundtable discussion with commercial fishermen in Bangor, Maine, that included a wide-ranging conversation about unwanted regulations and tariffs on the seafood trade.

“We’re opening it today,” Trump said. To the fishermen, he added: “We’re gonna solve your fishing problem….Basically, they took away your livelihood. It’s ridiculous.”

Trump’s move to open fishing in the Northeastern Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument will surely open a new front in the ongoing legal battle over the limits of presidential powers regarding national monuments. Native American tribes and environmental groups are already challenging administration efforts to reduce the size of two monuments in Utah.

In this case, as some who attended the Maine meeting pointed out, the president is not seeking to change the marine monument’s boundaries. Environmental groups nonetheless immediately vowed to sue the Trump administration.

“A significant change to the monument or its protections—such as allowing commercial fishing—must be done by Congress, not by the president,” Brad Sewell, senior director of Oceans for the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement. “The Antiquities Act gives the president power to protect special areas for future generations, not the opposite power, to abolish those protections.”

He added: “We are prepared to sue the Trump administration.”

Enric Sala, a marine biologist and founder of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas program, who helped to create marine monuments in the Pacific and elsewhere, says leaving the boundaries intact makes little difference if commercial fishing is allowed.

“National monuments, by law, are to preserve the integrity of America’s natural and historical sites,” he says. “We need pristine areas set aside so that we can see nature as it was before we overexploited it, and understand the true impact of fishing. If commercial fishing were allowed in a monument, it would become just a name on a map, and no different than any other place in the ocean.”