Archives for December 2015

Cause of Action Joins Open Government Coalition in Urging President Obama to Increase Transparency at OMB

Today, Cause of Action Institute joined a broad coalition of 22 transparency and good-government organizations urging President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget to update its Open Government Plan.

An agency’s Open Government Plan provides a roadmap for both the agency and the public to understand the steps the agency will take to increase transparency.  OMB has failed to update its plan in either 2012 or 2014, and it appears to be on track to fail to do so again.  Transparency at OMB is particularly important given its role in the budget and regulatory process.

Read the full letter below:

Cause of Action’s Stephen Schwartz Interviewed On WBSM

Cause of Action Counsel Stephen Schwartz appears on the Ken Pittman Show on WBSM in New Bedford, MA to discuss a new lawsuit we’ve helped a group of fishermen file against the Department of Commerce. He explains how the government forcing fishermen to pay for the cost of NOAA’s at-sea monitoring mandate will decimate the ground fishing industry.

Media Call: Cause of Action Discusses New Lawsuit Against Department of Commerce

Cause of Action media call to discuss our new lawsuit against the Department of Commerce regarding a new regulation that will be devastating to the East Coast ground-fishing industry.

East Coast Fishermen File Lawsuit Over At-Sea Monitoring Mandate

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East Coast Fishermen File Lawsuit Over At-Sea Monitoring Mandate

Complaint Challenges Federal Regulation that the Government Admits Would Hurt Fishermen Throughout the East Coast

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 10, 2015

MEDIA CONTACT: Geoff Holtzman l l 703-405-3511

WASHINGTON – Today, Cause of Action is announcing that its clients, David Goethel, owner and operator of F/V Ellen Diane, a 44-foot fishing trawler based in Hampton, N.H., and Northeast Fishery Sector 13, a nonprofit entity representing fishermen from Massachusetts to North Carolina, are suing the U.S. Department of Commerce over a program that would devastate the fishing industry along much of the eastern seaboard.

The complaint challenges the legality of a federal mandate requiring those who fish for cod, flounder and other ‘ground fish’ in the Northeast United States to not only carry National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) enforcement contractors known as “at-sea monitors” on their vessels during fishing trips, but to soon begin paying out-of-pocket for the cost of these authorities. In addition to the complaint, the Plaintiffs have filed a motion for a preliminary injunction that would protect fishermen from having to bear the costs of the at-sea monitors.

“Fishing is my passion and its how I’ve made a living, but right now, I’m extremely fearful that I won’t be able to do what I love and provide for my family if I’m forced to pay out of pocket for at-sea monitors,” said Goethel. “I’m doing this not only to protect myself, but to stand up for others out there like me whose livelihoods are in serious jeopardy. I’m grateful to Cause of Action for giving my industry a voice and helping us fight to preserve our way of life.”

“The fishermen in my sector are hard-working and compassionate folks who would give the shirts off of their backs to help a fellow fisherman in need,” said Northeast Fishery Sector 13 Manager John Haran. “Our sector will be effectively shut down if these fishermen are forced to pay, themselves, for the cost of at-sea monitors.”

“By the federal government’s own estimate, this unlawful regulation will be the death knell for much of what remains of a once-thriving ground fish industry that has been decimated by burdensome federal overreach,” said Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein. “Americans, particularly those who enjoy good, quality seafood, should be extremely concerned that an industry that has been around since before our nation was even founded is slowly going extinct, having been left out at sea by a federal government that seems more interested in caving to special interests than protecting jobs, families and consumers everywhere.”






“Catch Shares” are a fishery management tool that dedicates a secure share of quota allowing fishermen or other entities to harvest a fixed amount of fish. Since 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has coerced New England groundfishermen like Mr. Goethel into joining a form of catch shares known as “sectors,” where they share quota, and are forced to invite federally-contracted monitors onto their boats anytime they set out to sea.

Although the agency has claimed in Federal court that “Sector membership is voluntary; permit holders need not join a sector in order to be able to fish,” the reality is they have designed the alternative, known as the “common pool” to be so prohibitive, that fisherman are forced to join a sector to remain economically viable in the groundfish industry.

Catch Shares were promoted heavily by environmental groups and NOAA during the first years of the Obama Administration. Former NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, asserted that “fisheries managed with catch share programs perform better than fisheries managed with traditional tools.” She promised that catch shares are “the best way for many fisheries to both meet [federal mandates] and have healthy, profitable fisheries that are sustainable.” However, the promises made by Federal appointees and environmentalists have not been fulfilled in New England.

Unfortunately, it’s about to get much worse for these struggling fishermen, who are already policed by the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Some time in “early 2016,”, NOAA will begin forcing them to pay the costs associated with having at-sea monitors watch over their shoulders.

This unlawful mandate will cost Mr. Goethel and the groundfishermen of Sector 13 hundreds of dollars per day at sea, which, for many of them, is the difference between sinking and staying afloat. In fact, according to a study produced by NOAA, nearly 60% of the industry will be rendered unprofitable if it is required to pay out of pocket for these monitors.

NOAA has implemented the industry funding requirement for monitoring despite the fact that:

  • The Secretary of Commerce declared the groundfish fishery an economic disaster in 2012.
  • The industry continues to struggle with the precipitous decline in groundfish profitability, as evidenced by a four-year low in groundfish revenue of $55.2 million for Fishing Year 2013 — a 33.6 percent decline from Fishing Year 2010.
  • Congress has directed NOAA to use its appropriated funding to cover the cost of these at-sea monitors, which NOAA has refused to properly utilize and allocate in accordance with congressional intent.
  • NOAA is specifically required by statute to implement regulations that allow fishing communities sustainable prosperity and “minimize adverse economic impacts on such communities.”
  • As mentioned above, NOAA itself produced a study indicating that upwards of 60 percent of the groundfish industry could be rendered unprofitable if it is required to pay for at-sea monitors.

About David Goethel:

Mr. Goethel, who has been fishing for over 30 years, holds a B.S. in Biology from Boston University, and worked at the New England Aquarium as a research biologist before choosing to go back out to sea as a fisherman. Mr. Goethel served two terms on the New England Fishery Management Council, and has been an advisor to seven state and federal fishery management boards, including the Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission and the governor’s commission on marine biology. Mr. Goethel has been awarded the National Fisherman’s Highliners Award for his active involvement in cooperative efforts to research and manage marine fisheries resources, and is a member of the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative.

About Northeast Fishery Sector 13:

Northeast Fishery Sector 13 is a nonprofit organization comprised of 20 active groundfishermen who are permitted in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia. The number of groundfishing activity within the sector has declined sharply in the past five years due to poor science and overregulation, which has resulted in quota cuts. Click here for more information about the sector.

About Cause of Action:

Cause of Action is a government accountability organization committed to ensuring that decisions made by federal agencies are open, honest, and fair.

To speak to a legal expert from Cause of Action about the case, please contact Geoff Holtzman at or call 703-405-3511


Weekly Rundown 12-4-2015

Cause of Action in the News:

SC MagazineFTC to appeal LabMD dismissal ruling

The Federal Trade Commission has decided to appeal Chief Administrative Law Judge Michael Chappel’s ruling to dismiss the case against LabMD.  Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein responded to the appeal, saying “Every unbiased decision-maker who has reviewed this case, including the FTC’s own Chief Administrative Law Judge, the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight & Government Reform Committee, and a U.S. District Court Judge, has found FTC’s claims against LabMD to be baseless, and its conduct inexplicable and even an ’embarrassment.’”

PoliticoFor their second act, Keystone killers tackle Exxon

Together with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Cause of Action has filed a complaint with the IRS against the Institute of Global Environment and Society.  The founder of IGES was one of the first to demand that those opposed to his point of view be charged with federal racketeering. Our complaint charges the founder, Jadagish Shukla, of using government given funds for personal gain. The institute is currently being investigated by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith.

Daily CallerCongress To Protect Worst Bureaucratic Outrage You’ve Never Heard About

The Email Privacy Act has gained steam in the House with bipartisan backing.  The act would protect internet providers from administrative subpoenas, which don’t require a judge’s approval before they are acted upon.  Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein said that “Administrative subpoenas – which are compulsory requests for information – issued by an unelected bureaucrat – not a judge or jury – and which forces individuals and businesses to provide information that will be used against them in a civil enforcement or criminal referral action – are one of the greatest threats to American liberty today, largely because there has been no judicial or legislative attempt to limit their scope or power.”

In Other News:

Washington ExaminerState Dept. to overhaul email system to prevent Clinton repeat

In an attempt to prevent another Hillary Clinton email scandal the State Department has sent out a request for information on a new email management system to be put into place by the end of next year.  They are looking for a new system that will keep work and personal emails separate automatically.  It will also automatically save all official emails.  A federal watchdog determined that of the over 1 billion emails sent fewer than 65,000 were printed and saved.

ForbesEPA Wants To Water Down Gasoline Supply With More Ethanol

The Environmental Protection Agency has decided to increase the amount of ethanol added to gasoline.  This decision comes with bipartisan opposition consisting of “environmentalists, oil companies, legislators (Republican and Democrat) and various industry groups who collectively want the RFS standard eliminated.”  The National Council of Chain Restaurants says that this new mandate will raise the price of food $3.2 billion a year.

Money MorningWhat Happened to Government Transparency? All We See Is Illegal Stonewalling

Over the past five years, at least 20 inspectors general investigations have been obstructed in an affront to transparency. To make matters worse, the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel in July determined that the intended reading of “all records” does not in fact include “all records.”  Instead, a record deemed to contain “confidential” information can now be retained from the IG’s scope of investigation by the agency.  A New York University professor says that inspectors general have become “defanged” and that “[t]his is by far the most aggressive assault on the inspector general concept since the beginning.”