… The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), a nonprofit civil rights organization, is representing three fishing companies: Relentless Inc., Huntress Inc. and Seafreeze Fleet LLC…
“On a daily basis, before you leave the dock, you have to tell the government what you’re going to fish for. You have a government ankle bracelet on your boat called Vessel Monitoring System. They know where you are at all times. They know how fast you’re going, what direction you’re going in,” said Meghan Lapp, the fisheries liaison for Seafreeze Ltd.
Lapp told “The Story” Wednesday they are required by Congress to take fisheries observers on their boat.
“They collect fisheries data as well as enforce rules and regulations. We can be boarded by the Coast Guard at any time, with or without cause, and this is all going on while we’re harvesting fish. We’re hauling back nets. We’re using heavy equipment, you know, on a platform that’s moving,” she added. “Going fishing is a dangerous profession, but it’s also an extremely rewarding one, but in this particular instance, the government decided that it wanted to expand its monitoring program, but Congress didn’t give it the money to do so. So, the agency’s solution was to force those costs on us.”
Mark Chenoweth, president and chief legal officer of the NCLA, told anchor Martha MacCallum that Congress never said agencies could charge Lapp and others to put monitors on their boats, nor were they given the authority to do so.
“The agency didn’t have enough money to do it unless they charged the boats,” he said. “And so, they decided to read the regulation in a way favorable to the government, so that they could go ahead and put more monitors on the boats than Congress approved.”