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Mexican Gulf Fishing Company v. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

CASE: Mexican Gulf Fishing Company, et al. v. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, et al.

STATUS: Closed

NCLA ROLE: Counsel

COURTS HEARD IN: 5th Cir., E.D. La.

ORIGINAL COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

DECIDING COURT: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

OPENED: August 20, 2020


Due Process Violations

The due process of law guarantees a right to be held to account only through the processes of an impartial court—something administrative tribunals violate every day.

Unreasonable Searches

The Fourth Amendment forbids warrantless searches and seizures of information, yet the Administrative State violates this right to privacy through administrative subpoenas and warrants, automated information collection devices, civil investigative demands, and “voluntary” requests for information.

The U.S. government tried to force charter boats and companies that take customers fishing and sightseeing in the Gulf of Mexico to purchase a vessel monitoring system (VMS). Federal agencies would have used VMS tracking devices to monitor boats’ movements and whereabouts on the water, even when they are not using their federal permits to fish. NCLA’s class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and their heads, contends that these agencies were mandating an unlawful 24-hour GPS surveillance regime without a warrant. 

NCLA’s named clients, for-hire vessel operating companies and captains, would have been affected by a final rule that Commerce, NOAA, and NMFS intended to enforce. The rule would have forced owners or operators of charter vessels or for-hire vessels in the Gulf to submit electronic fishing reports using NMFS-approved hardware and software with GPS location capabilities that “at a minimum, archive vessel position data during a trip for subsequent transmission to NMFS.” The rule also would have required that captains pay for the vessel equivalent of an ankle bracelet. NCLA contended these agencies could not issue a regulation that would monitor law-abiding captains more closely than many paroled prisoners. 

The agencies claimed this rule was meant to “increase and improve fisheries information collected from federally permitted for-hire vessels in the Gulf.” But NCLA argued that warrantless access to the GPS information of a person’s locations and movements would have amounted to an unreasonable search violating the Fourth Amendment and violated Ninth Amendment rights, including the right to privacy, freedom of movement, free enterprise, freedom from unreasonable governmental interference, and the right to travel. Since plaintiffs would have been the sole owners of their devices’ data, its seizure without cause would also have violated the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. 

Capt. Allen Walburn, Plaintiff

Kara Rollins
Litigation Counsel
Sheng Li
Litigation Counsel
John J. Vecchione
Senior Litigation Counsel

Motion to Withdraw Motion for Fees and Costs

November 29, 2023 | Read More

Opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

February 23, 2023 | Read More

Appellants’ Reply Brief

June 22, 2022 | Read More

Appellees’ Brief

June 1, 2022 | Read More

Brief of Amicus Curiae the Buckeye Institute in Support of Appellants and in Support of Reversal

May 9, 2022 | Read More


In NCLA Win, Fifth Circuit Tosses Back NMFS Rule Trying to Track Charter Boats Without a Warrant

February 23, 2023 | Read More

NCLA Files Fifth Circuit Appeal to Stop Unlawful 24/7 Tracking of Gulf of Mexico Charter Boats

May 3, 2022 | Read More

NCLA Appeals District Court Ruling Allowing Government to Unlawfully Track Gulf Charter Vessels

March 3, 2022

NCLA Successfully Petitions NOAA to Delay Warrantless 24/7 Surveillance of Charter Boats in the Gulf

November 2, 2021

Something Is Fishy in the Gulf: NOAA Forces Charter Boat Captains to Install ‘Anchor Bracelets’

September 3, 2021


Charter Captains Are Suing the Government Over New “Anchor Bracelet” Requirement

Field & Stream

February 7, 2023

Gulf boat operators allege high-tech fisheries monitoring violates their constitutional rights

Louisiana Record

February 7, 2023

Charter captains file federal suit over GPS, reporting rule

Cape Coral Breeze

February 7, 2023

Gulf of Mexico charter operators fight back against lawsuit mandating electronic monitoring


February 7, 2023

Suit challenging new charter boat rules OK’d as class action

Associated Press

February 7, 2023




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