The National Sea Grant Law Center


Archive: August 2020 Blog Posts

  • Mandates Remain in Effect for Charter Fishing Services and Vessels
  • August 27th, 2020 — by Gabi Jackson — Category: COVID-19

  • The charter fishing industry faced significant hardship at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic due to restrictions put in place to combat the coronavirus. An unprecedented wave of cancellations followed the issuance of public health orders that restricted travel or required the closure of non-essential businesses. As public health restrictions are lifted, states are implementing new guidelines that govern the operation of for-hire fleets and charter boats. While these laws are put in place for the safety of the charter operators and clients, the social distancing and maximum occupancy guidelines may keep some from resuming business.

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  • NOAA Fisheries Announces Regions to Host Nation’s First Aquaculture Opportunity Areas
  • August 24th, 2020 — by Zachary Klein — Category: Aquaculture

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Division (NOAA Fisheries), also known as the National Marine Fisheries Services, announced on August 22, 2020 that two of the nation’s first Aquaculture Opportunity Areas (AOAs) will be in federal waters off southern California and in the Gulf of Mexico.

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  • Consolidated MDL for COVID-19 Lawsuits?
  • August 20th, 2020 — by Caroline Heavey — Category: COVID-19 Insurance PPP Torts

  • COVID-19 has sparked significant litigation across the country and presents new challenges for courts to decide. While lawmakers are attempting to limit COVID-19-related litigation by passing liability shield laws and introducing penalties for making a practice out of COVID-19 litigation for attorneys, more and more COVID-19-related lawsuits are being filed. One tool available to courts to reduce this caseload is consolidation under 28 U.S.C. § 1407, which authorizes the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) to centralize cases with one or more common questions of fact. Multidistrict litigation was created to help courts navigate the work-related asbestos cases of the 1990s. The federal MDL panel has received petitions to consider MDL for lawsuits related to COVID-19 business interruption insurance and against banks regarding their handling of COVID-19 SBA loans and repayment of agents.

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  • USDA Announces Aquaculture Commodities Eligible for COVID Aid Program
  • August 17th, 2020 — by Zachary Klein — Category: Aquaculture COVID-19 Seafood

  • On August 11, 2020, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a long-awaited announcement that certain aquaculture producers are eligible for financial assistance under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Although the program was originally launched by the USDA in April to provide assistance to agricultural producers impacted by the economic effects of COVID-19, the agency’s decision to include aquaculture came after a public comment period in June that gave producers and industry the opportunity to submit data demonstrating that various aquaculture commodities meet the criteria for CFAP eligibility.

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  • Fraud Prosecutions for Paycheck Protection Program
  • August 14th, 2020 — by Betsy Lee Montague — Category: COVID-19 PPP

  • Federal prosecutors have already filed charges against at least 33 small businesses or individual owners for alleged Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan fraud, such as fabricating applications, falsifying tax or business records, and misusing loan money.

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  • Businesses Reopening During COVID Have Another Concern: Legionnaires’ Disease
  • August 12th, 2020 — by Gabi Jackson — Category: COVID-19 Torts

  • Recently, an employee at a high school in Kettering, OH tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease in June after the school closed down due to COVID-19. Four water pipes, located in bathrooms and sinks, held Legionella bacteria. Legionnaires’ disease is a concern for schools, businesses, and other entities reopening after coronavirus-related closures. After 21-30 days of disuse, water in pipes becomes stagnant and the chlorinated water, which acts as a disinfectant, is no longer present. Bacteria called Legionella can form in the water system leading to lung infection.

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  • OSHA Revises Rule Concerning Employee Medical Records
  • August 11th, 2020 — by Caroline Heavey — Category: COVID-19 OSHA

  • In the world of COVID-19, it seems that information constantly is changing, and many do not know how to proceed forward. OSHA and the CDC have issued guidance to help employers provide a safe and healthful workplace for workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though OSHA has issued proactive recommendations on how to control the spread of COVID-19, many workers are concerned about their working conditions. The agency has received thousands of COVID-19-related workplace health and safety complaints and, in response, the agency has opened investigations into these allegations. Part of the OSHA investigation process includes the examination of employee records. In the wake of COVID-19, one big question employers have been asking is how to handle disclosure of employee medical records.

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  • Border Restrictions Extended
  • August 10th, 2020 — by Betsy Lee Montague — Category: COVID-19

  • As coronavirus cases continue to increase, many countries have closed their borders to non-essential travelers by imposing travel restrictions. On July 22, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published notice that previously announced agreements among the United States, Canada, and Mexico to keep their borders closed to nonessential land and ferry crossings will extend through August 20, 2020. The travel restrictions were originally announced mid-March and were extended in April, May, June, and most recently in July. Anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident of that country must prove one of the following: (1) they are traveling for an essential purpose; (2) they are only transiting; or (3) they are an immediate family member of a citizen or a permanent resident. Americans who are returning to the United States are exempt from the border closures.

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  • OIG Report Finds EPA Struggles With Environmental Justice Initiatives
  • August 7th, 2020 — by Mikayla Mangle — Category: Environmental Justice

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” In its recent fiscal year 2020-2021 report, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) identified environmental justice as one of the eight top management challenges the EPA has struggled with and needs to improve on. According to the report, the OIG and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have consistently found that the EPA is not measuring up to its definition of environmental justice. The report specifically stated, “EPA needs to enhance its consideration of environmental justice across programs and regions and provide leadership in this area for the federal government.”

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  • Fifth Circuit: Federal Government Can’t Regulate Aquaculture Under Magnuson-Stevens
  • August 5th, 2020 — by Zachary Klein — Category: Aquaculture Fisheries

  • On August 3, 2020, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its much-awaited decision in Gulf Fishermens Association v. National Marine Fisheries Service. The litigation concerned the authority of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to regulate aquaculture under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (“Magnuson-Stevens” or “the Act”), which has been the primary federal mechanism for regulating wild fisheries since 1976. Although one member of the three-judge panel that heard the case dissented, the court ultimately affirmed the district court's ruling that a NMFS rule purporting to regulate offshore aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico exceeded the agency’s statutory authority.

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  • Potential Workplace Spread of COVID-19: Could OSHA Be Liable?
  • August 3rd, 2020 — by Caroline Heavey — Category: COVID-19 OSHA Torts

  • One of the greatest challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has been balancing the need for essential infrastructure workers to continue working with workplace health and safety concerns. Employers have a general duty to keep the workplace free from recognized hazards and comply with the regulations promulgated by OSHA. OSHA and the CDC have issued joint guidance for returning to work safely and sector-specific guidelines for those workers particularly at risk. Despite calls for OSHA to take regulatory action to protect workers from COVID-19, the agency has relied on voluntary guidelines. Over 6,000 COVID-19-related OSHA complaints have been filed, but OSHA has issued few citations to employers. Now, workers are taking action into their own hands.

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