Rule requires charter boats to be tracked 24/7. Opponents say those who fish 'should be livid.'

Special to Gannett / USA TODAY NETWORK

WASHINGTON — The New Civil Liberties Alliance has filed an opening brief in its appeal to a National Marine Fisheries Service rule that requires 24-hour GPS tracking of recreational charter fishing vessels.

The class action lawsuit was filed last week on behalf of more than 1,300 federally permitted charter boat owners who are challenging a Final Rule issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

NCLA argues, among other things, that the district court erred in holding that the Fourth Amendment allows an agency to monitor charter boat operators without a warrant or any suspicion of wrongdoing.

An opening brief has been filed by the New Civil Liberties Alliance to appeal the National Marine Fisheries Service rule that requires 24-hour GPS tracking of recreational charter fishing vessels.

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“Everyone who engages in recreational fishing should be livid that the government has asserted a right to monitor your whereabouts at all times because you might be using the fishing resource," said John J. Vecchione, NCLA senior litigation counsel. "There is no reason to think this incredible invasion of our clients’ constitutional rights, if tolerated, will not be extended to any sportsmen who take fish from America’s waters.

“To give bureaucrats the right to search you at any time on the off chance you are fishing makes our constitutional protections flimsy indeed. We look forward to the Fifth Circuit’s reversing this mistaken decision,” he added.

On Aug. 20, 2020, NCLA filed a class-action suit challenging the Final Rule as unconstitutional and unlawful. Appellants do not challenge the transmission of fish-related information in electronic fishing reports. Rather, they challenge the GPS tracking mandate and the requirements to transmit “other information” not specified in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, including business data.

On Feb. 28, the district court denied the boat owners’ motion for summary judgment and denied their request for a stay of the regulation. The GPS-tracking requirement went into effect the next day.