SCOTUS Decision Could Have Big Impact On Fishing
A number of New England fishermen are anticipating a major victory this year at the nation's highest court in a case that could determine the fate of America's oldest industry.
Fishermen believe that a decision by the Supreme Court in two upcoming cases will have far-reaching effects on the future of their livelihoods. The cases challenge a regulation by the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that requires fishermen to pay government officials to join their fishing voyages as human monitors. Fishermen argue that this is a violation of their constitutional rights and could potentially lead to the demise of their industry.
Jerry Leeman, a longtime Maine fisherman and founder of the New England Fishermen's Stewardship Association, is one of the many fishermen who are fighting this regulation. Leeman expressed his concerns outside the Supreme Court, where he stated that he and his crew were required to pay exorbitant fees for the monitors on board their vessels. "It was like $780 a day for a monitor," Leeman told The Daily Wire. "I can't even afford to pay my crew that much, let alone a monitor." Leeman also expressed concerns about the lack of training for these monitors, who are often fresh out of college and have only received a few weeks of online training before being brought onto the dangerous waters.
Rob Odlin, a fifth-generation fisherman from Maine, also shared his experience with the government-mandated monitors. In one instance, a monitor placed a dead bird in the same freezer where the fishermen kept their personal food. "I just couldn't believe it," Odlin said. "I was like, get that away from my steak. That's not the proper place to store that." These are just a few examples of the challenges that fishermen face as a result of this regulation, which was put in place under President Donald Trump in 2020.
The issue at hand is the legality of the "Chevron deference," a principle that allows federal agencies to interpret ambiguous laws. The fishermen's argument is that this principle goes against their constitutional rights, as it essentially allows courts to defer to the government, giving them unchecked power to make decisions that directly affect their livelihoods. If the fishermen lose their case, it could set a precedent for similar regulations in other industries. This has caused immense concern not only for the fishing industry but also for the future of American businesses as a whole.
The fishing industry in New England has been struggling for decades due to excessive regulations. Over 70 to 85 percent of seafood in the United States is now imported, according to NOAA. This has created a situation where foreign seafood is being imported, while America's own fishermen are struggling to make a living. "Icelandic fishermen can be off the coast of Iceland catching fish and then it goes on a plane, lands in Boston, and ends up on your plate," Leeman said. "That's not right." The fishermen hope that by fighting this regulation, they can create a more level playing field for their industry and ensure that American consumers are purchasing locally caught seafood.
John Borden, a fisherman from New Hampshire, shared his concerns about the current state of the fishing industry. He believes that fishermen are the best people to regulate the industry, as they have a vested interest in preserving it for future generations. "The last thing a fisherman wants to do is run out of fish," Borden said. "We want fish forever for our kids, for us." The three fishermen all expressed their love for their jobs and the proud tradition of fishing in New England. They believe that their profession is not just a job but a way of life that has been passed down for generations.
However, the biggest threat to their way of life is the excessive regulations put in place by the government. Fishermen argue that these regulations are made by people who have no experience in the industry and do not understand the challenges they face every day. "The administrators and these people that are professional academics, they don't see what we see on a daily basis," Borden said. "You can't learn that out of a book." The fishermen believe that if they are allowed to regulate their industry, they can ensure its sustainability for future generations while also protecting the ocean's resources.
During arguments at the Supreme Court, the justices appeared divided over the case. Some showed skepticism over the Chevron deference, while others expressed hesitation about overruling it. Both cases, Relentless Inc. v. U.S. Dept. of Commerce and Loper Bright v. Raimondo, challenge the current state of the fishing industry and have far-reaching implications for the entire country.
Fishermen hope to see a favorable decision from the Supreme Court, which will not only benefit them and their industry but also set a precedent for future regulations imposed by federal agencies. For now, fishermen across New England anxiously wait for the court's decision, hoping for a victory that will secure the future of their livelihoods.