The issue of whether presidents should use the Antiquities Act to independently designate new marine national monuments is not going away any time soon.

The chairmen of the eight regional fishery management councils have weighed in, co-authoring a letter to President Donald J. Trump decrying the use of the Antiquities Act to create new marine national monuments and characterizing it as a disruptive end-run around traditional fishery management practices.

The letter and accompanying resolution from the Council Coordinating Committee are the most recent drumbeats in an escalating campaign to reverse marine national monuments designated by former President Barack Obama and dissuade future presidents from using the same procedural mechanism to create the protected areas.

The letter, which includes Chairman John F. Quinn of the New England Fishery Management Council as a signatory, flatly states the use of the Antiquities Act impedes the councils from performing their statutory duties as set out in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

“Designation of marine national monuments that prohibit fishing have disrupted the ability of the councils to manage fisheries throughout their range, as required by MSA and in an eco-system manner,” the letter stated. “Our experience with marine monument designations to date is that they are counter-productive to domestic fishery goals, as they have displaced and concentrated U.S. fishing effort into less productive fishing grounds and increased dependency on foreign fisheries that are not as sustainably managed as United States fisheries.”

The designations, they wrote, not only curtail potential harvesting areas for commercial fishermen but also diminish the nation’s ability to watch over its waters.

“The removal of American fishing vessels from U.S. waters eliminates their ability to act as watchdogs over U.S. fishing grounds threatened by foreign fishing and other incursions,” the letter stated. “For all those reasons and more, we believe fisheries management decisions should be made through the robust process established by MSA and successfully used for over 40 years.”

The correspondence from the Council Coordination Committee follows the federal lawsuit challenging former President Barack Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act to create the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument off the coast of New England.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., includes the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association as a lead plaintiff, and names Trump, new Commerce Secretary Wilbur J. Ross and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke among the five defendants. 

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeanGDT