Facts of the Case

Provided by Oyez

The Atlantic herring fishery is regulated by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), aimed at preventing overfishing and promoting conservation. The MSA sets up regional councils, including the New England Fishery Management Council, which oversees the Atlantic herring fishery. These councils create fishery management plans (FMPs) to set conservation measures, which must align with ten National Standards and other laws.

The Secretary of Commerce, through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), reviews and publishes these plans for public comment. In 2000, the New England Council established an FMP for Atlantic herring, updated with an industry-funded monitoring program in 2020. The program partially shifts the cost of at-sea monitoring to vessel owners but aims for a 50% target of monitored herring trips, which will cause reduced profits for the fishing industry and communities.

Owners of two fishing vessels, Relentless Inc., Huntress Inc., and Seafreeze Fleet LLC, challenged the Rule, arguing that the monitoring requirement disproportionately burdens them because of their longer trips and inability to qualify for exemptions. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Agency, ruling that the MSA’s ambiguity on industry-paid monitors allows for agency interpretation under Chevron deference, that the Rule complies with the MSA’s National Standards and the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and does not violate the Commerce Clause. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed.


  1. Should Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council be overruled?

  2. Does statutory silence concerning controversial powers expressly but narrowly granted elsewhere in the statute constitute an ambiguity requiring deference to the agency?