U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin this week announced an amendment he introduced to the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act had passed the House. The amendment bars funding for the designation of any national marine monuments by the president in the Exclusive Economic Zone. Marine monuments are areas of ocean where fishing would be banned without consulting the local community, fishermen, or regional fisheries managers.
In a release, Congressman Zeldin’s office said the amendment would prevent abuse of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which was signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, and gives a president the sole power to declare National Monuments on federal land and waters. These are traditionally historical sites and conservation areas that become part of the National Parks system.
Mr. Zeldin in a release said the Obama administration’s “overzealous interpretation of this law is causing great concern” among the fishing community because the president has sought to apply his power to vast portions of the ocean. In 2014, he said the president declared a 407,000-square-mile National Marine Monument in the Pacific Ocean where commercial fishing was banned and recreational fishing was severely limited. Now, important fishing areas in the Northwest Atlantic, where fishermen from Greenport and Montauk have long worked, are under consideration with little public input and no transparency.
“Over 8 million pounds of U.S. seafood is sustainably harvested each year from the Georges Banks canyons and New England Seamounts…. a great deal of which is caught by New York fishermen, sustaining hundreds of jobs in New York alone and nationwide thousands of jobs in coastal communities,” said Bonnie Brady, the executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. “These are the critical waters that Mr. Zeldin’s amendment will protect.”