New England Legal Foundation Sides with Region’s Fisheries in Battle Over Cost-Shifting by Federal Agency; NELF Amicus Brief Urges US Supreme Court Review

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                12-6-2022

CONTACT:     Burt Peretsky, <>, 781-696-5579

BOSTON – The New England Legal Foundation (NELF –, the leading legal advocate for free enterprise in New England, is urging the US Supreme Court to consider stopping the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) from forcing fishing boat owners to pay the daily wages of federal inspectors, or “observers,” whom the fishing vessels must quarter and accommodate during their fishing trips.

In an amicus, friend-of-the-court, brief filed in the request for certiorari by plaintiffs in the case of Loper Bright Enterprises, et al. v. U.S. Secretary of Commerce, et al, NELF contends that Congress has only authorized NMFS, under the 1996 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act – the primary law that governs marine fisheries management in U.S. federal waters – to require that at-sea observers “be carried on board” domestic fishing vessels “and nothing more.”

“The fishing industry forms the historic backbone of the New England economy,” said NELF President Dan Winslow, “so it is important that we stand with the working men and women of the fisheries to push back against federal agency overreach. We hope the US Supreme Court sees the national implications of this intrusion on economic liberty and steps in to make it right.”

Amicus brief author, NELF Senior Staff Attorney Ben Robbins, said the Foundation is interested in this case, “because an administrative agency, acting without any identifiable statutory authority, has required certain fishing vessels within the already beleaguered New England herring fishery to pay the daily wages of federal inspectors, or “observers,” whom the fishing vessels must carry on board during their fishing trips. In the agency’s final rule,” he added, “the NMFS estimated that an at-sea observer would cost a herring boat $710 per day and would reduce a boat’s annual financial return by approximately 20 percent. While the final rule singles out the Atlantic herring fishery,” Robbins continued, “that same rule also paves the way for NMFS to require potentially all other New England fisheries to fund at-sea observers.  Moreover, NFMS’s interpretation of its industry-funding powers, if left standing, would allow the agency to require potentially all commercial fisheries under its jurisdiction to pay for at-sea observers.”


About the New England Legal Foundation 

The New England Legal Foundation (NELF – is the leading non-profit public interest law firm in the region dedicated to addressing issues of law and policy related to free enterprise. NELF’s ongoing mission is to champion individual economic liberties, property rights, limited government based on rule of law, and inclusive economic growth. NELF challenges actions by governments and special interests which would unreasonably intrude on the economic freedoms of individuals and business enterprises in New England and the nation. We believe that economic liberty is fundamental to a democratic society and offers the most sustainable path to advance the American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


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