Fishermen Sue Biden Administration Saying Regulations Are Unconstitutional And Sinking Business

 June 22, 2023

As a follow up to the recent lawsuit of the Biden Administration by Lobsterman, that was won in court last week, reportedly, two fishermen have taken on the administration with their own lawsuit. It alleges that says Congress and several unelected councils, are unconstitutionally overseeing and regulating fisheries.

In the lawsuit, commercial fishermen, Ryan Bradley of Mississippi and George Arnesen of Louisiana, are arguing that Congress has placed regulatory authority in the hands of an "unconstitutional regime" . Further it states, that their actions place local fisherman "at the mercy of unaccountable bureaucrats who answers only to themselves."

Specifically citing the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the lawsuit, addresses the Act, as the primary law that governs marine fisheries management located within U.S. federal waters. The plaintiffs are calling it –

"Congress's first comprehensive attempt to regulate fishing in federal waters." Alleging that …"In its zeal to regulate, however, Congress converted federal waters into Constitution-free zones, violating the Constitution in multiple respects – violations that are increasingly drawing judicial scrutiny,"…

"Given this broad authority to set, monitor, adjust, and preserve federal policies … one would expect some degree of federal democratic control over the Councils," [the lawsuit reads]. "But Congress provided just the opposite, immunizing Council Members from meaningful control by the President, his Commerce Secretary, and through them the American people."…

"More fundamentally, Congress broke the Constitution's promise of separated powers and executive accountability to the President. This is clear in multiple respects,"

-Lawsuit Brought Against The Biden Administration by Bradley And Arnesen

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is the entity particularly involved in the suit. The plaintiffs allege that this council has been bestowed a "broad policymaking ‘authority over the fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico'" and eight Regional Fishery Management Councils, at the center of the act, that invoke oversight and regulations on fisheries within their own designated regions.

The lawsuit further alleges that a result of such power designation, state rather than federal officials, were given the authority to designate council members, leaving fishermen's fates in the hands of officials "insulated from democratic control and vulnerable to capture by narrow private interests." The suit also cites a similar matter in a Fifth Circuit ruling, which held that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had violated fishermen's Fourth Amendment rights after subjecting their boats to "round-the-clock GPS surveillance."

In general it would seem that the federal government has overstepped it’s regulatory allowance in promoting unconstitutional oversight of the fishing industry. Suits such as these are necessary to point out this overreach into the businesses, that cannot survive this kind of regulatory invasiveness. Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, who was part of the three-judge panel that decided the above-mentioned case, of the Maine Lobstermen's Association versus the NMFS, blasted the government's theory in his written opinion, stating that it "was not just wrong; it was egregiously wrong."

Time will tell if these fisherman will prevail in their suit. Either way, current law needs to be addressed to form more constitutionally sound oversight, that does not oppress local businesses affected by the regulations enacted.

“When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else's oppression, we'll find our opportunities to make real change.”

-Ijeoma Oluo,
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