Hampton, NH Fisherman Takes Case to US Supreme Court


Dave Goethel at the helm of his 44' trawler Ellen Diane.

HAMPTON — After losing a lawsuit alleging a federal agency has imposed unfair regulations, Hampton fisherman David Goethel is taking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cause of Action Institute, which is representing Goethel and a group of other fishermen pro bono, filed a petition to be taken up by the Supreme Court Tuesday. The suit was originally filed in U.S. District Court against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Department of Commerce in 2015. It alleges NOAA unfairly requires commercial groundfishermen to fund at-sea monitors to join them on fishing trips and observe their compliance with regulations. Groundfish include popular New England fishing species like cod and haddock.

A First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Boston affirmed a ruling in favor of NOAA and the DOC this spring. According to Cause of Action’s petition, the lower court erred in dismissing the case based on the original suit being filed well after a 30-day deadline for challenging the regulation. Cause of Action is arguing the ruling prevented the court from addressing the merits of the suit’s argument – that fishermen believe it is unconstitutional for the government to force an industry to pay for its own policing.

“Our clients deserve an opportunity to be heard on the merits,” said Julie Smith, Cause of Action’s vice president. “Fishermen who have done nothing wrong should not be put out of business by an unlawful regulation.”

NOAA requires at-sea monitors, provided by third-party companies, join commercial groundfishermen on a percentage of fishing trips each year and cost approximately $700 each of those days. Fishermen were already struggling with strict catch limits and have said the at-sea monitor cost could be the tipping point that puts them out of business. There were once dozens of commercial fishermen in New Hampshire, but last year there were only about five commercial groundfishermen active in the state.

“After 30 years of fishing, I can’t afford to fish any longer if I’m forced to pay for at-sea monitors,” Goethel said in a statement this week. “These regulatory costs will devastate small boat fishermen like myself. The Supreme Court may be our last hope to save an industry that for centuries has provided a living for fishermen in New England.”

Smith said the petition requires the support of four Supreme Court justices to be accepted by the court and it could take up to a year for the court to decide if it will hear oral arguments in the case. In the meantime, fishermen will continue to pay the cost for at-sea monitors.

Originally appeared in Portsmouth Herald/Seacoastonline.com


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