Federal government can require tracking of chartered fishing vessels

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by operators of charter fishing boats in the Gulf of Mexico opposing federal regulations requiring them to affix tracking equipment to their vessels.

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan ruled Monday in favor of the National Marine Fisheries Service. The devices will help ensure logbooks are correct and catch data is reported accurately, the agency said in court records.

Morgan rejected arguments by boat operators that the permanent tracking amounts to a violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. The complaint was filed in 2020 by a group of Louisiana and Florida charter operators. Morgan granted class-action status last year, meaning hundreds more would have been covered by a favorable ruling.

But on Monday, Morgan said in an 80-page decision that the Fisheries Service had decades of tracking requirements in place for the commercial fishing industry. She said charter vessel tracking equipment for private fishers is similar to that used for commercial fishing operations, the information collected is limited in scope and is collected at regular intervals – not like a search. unexpected.

“The long-standing practice of tracking in the fishing industry reinforces the Court’s decision that the tracking requirement provides sufficient notice and limits the discretion to contain an adequate substitute for a warrant,” a- she writes.