PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A coalition of commercial fishing groups filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to challenge the creation of a national monument off the coast of New England.
President Barack Obama created the monument in September using executive authority under the Antiquities Act. The monument is called the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, and it is made up of nearly 5,000 square miles of underwater canyons and mountains.
The creation of the monument closed the area to most commercial fishing and has been opposed by fishing groups for months. A coalition of the groups filed their lawsuit Tuesday in federal court.
The groups said creation of the monument was a "unilateral" action by Obama that is bringing economic distress to fishermen and their families. They want it ruled an unlawful use of the Antiquities Act.
"The Northeast Canyons and Seamount National Marine Monument purports to designate a monument in the ocean 130 miles from the nation's coast. This area of the ocean is not 'lands owned or controlled' by the federal government," says the lawsuit, filed by the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation. "Therefore, the Antiquities Act does not authorize the President to establish the Northeast Canyon and Seamounts Marine National Monument."
Groups signing onto the lawsuit include the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association, Long Island Commercial Fishing Association and the Rhode Island Fishermen Alliance.
Environmental groups have rushed to defend the monument, which conservationists have touted as a way to protect habitat for whales and sea turtles.
"The president has the authority to declare national monuments, and we believe he did so properly here," said Brad Sewell of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Also Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican and the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, sent a letter to President Donald Trump calling for the removal of all marine monument fishing prohibitions. He called the prohibitions "a clear example of federal overreach."