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Court Battle Continues Over Atlantic Ocean's First-Ever National Monument

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument was created at the end of President Barack Obama's final term in office.

Commercial fishing groups are joining in federal court to challenge the creation of the Atlantic Ocean's first-ever marine national monument. But the federal government is now asking for the case to be tossed out.

At stake is the future of roughly 5,000 square miles off the coast of Massachusetts, called the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts.

President Barack Obama used the federal Antiquities Act to protect the zone in 2016. His office said it contained critical wildlife habitat.

The order stopped commercial fishing there, but did allow red crab and lobster fisheries a seven-year window to close up shop.

Commercial fishing groups from Massachusetts, Long Island, and Rhode Island challenged the decision, and said the order punished fishermen and exceeded presidential authority.  

In a filing Monday, the Department of Justice asked the Court to dismiss the lawsuit and said President Obama complied with the authority granted by the Antiquities Act.

But, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has said the Obama-era decision should be rolled back, to allow for a more local approach to fisheries management.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs says they’ll continue to challenge the monument in court.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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