A lawsuit from commercial fishermen in New Jersey has made its way to the United States Supreme Court, and an investigation has revealed an unexpected supporter.
According to The New York Times, petrochemicals billionaire Charles Koch, who regularly supports anti-regulatory causes, has thrown his weight behind a case that may reduce protections against overfishing.
The lawyers for the fishermen are reportedly handling the lawsuit pro bono through public-interest law firm Cause of Action, but a closer look revealed that the lawyers are actually employees of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity.
“It might all sound very innocuous. But it’s connected to a much larger agenda, which is essentially to disable and dismantle federal regulation,” said Jody Freeman, the founder and director of the Harvard Law School Environmental and Energy Law Program and a former White House official in the Obama administration.
Why is this important?
Overfishing, which disrupts the natural, protective balance of the ecosystem, has the potential to hinder those plans, though. As detailed by the World Wildlife Fund, a coalition of 16 conservation organizations discovered that almost one-third of freshwater fish species are at risk of extinction.
The issue of overfishing isn’t only in the U.S. either.
“In the Baltic Sea, we are seeing ecosystems collapse from chronic overfishing combined with the impacts of pollution and, increasingly, warming waters, which has led to many fishers dropping out of the industry,” Rebecca Hubbard, the program director for Our Fish, told the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
What can be done to help?
Reuters reported that the majority of conservative justices on the Supreme Court “signaled hesitation about reversing” a 1984 precedent that the lawsuit called into question, meaning the government program that tracks the overfishing of herring off the New England coast may continue.
The Supreme Court heard arguments for the case Jan. 17 and is expected to issue a ruling no later than June.
In the meantime, while the outcome of this particular lawsuit is up in the air, there are a number of ways you can make your voice heard on climate issues, including by chatting with your loved ones about things that matter to you and getting involved in local conservation efforts.
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