The fishing industry in the American northeast received unwelcome news this week as the Biden administration announced that the President would take unilateral executive action to prohibit fishing in vast swaths of ocean off the Atlantic coast over “environmental concerns.” The move comes after President Trump opened up those very same waters to fishing last year, providing a huge boost to an industry hit hard by the pandemic.
The decision is likely to be especially unpopular in Maine, where the Biden administration has already hamstrung the state’s famed lobstermen. The new suffocating regulations put forward by the Biden National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are so damaging to the lobster industry in Maine that they have even caused bitterly divided Republican and Democrat lawmakers to temporarily set aside their differences and come together in opposition to policies. All 151 members of the Maine legislature, the Democrat governor, and the entire federal delegation have called on Biden to reverse the new rules.
The commerce created by the lobster industry has a huge cultural and commercial impact on Maine, with an annual revenue of about $500 million in a state with just over a million people. The lobster catch is also a huge deal for the national economy – it was only recently eclipsed by salmon as the most valuable marine catch in the United States.
The economic engine that the valuable crustation propels is now being threatened by the Biden administration in the name of “conservation.” Specifically, the new rules imposed by NOAA allegedly protect the right whale (so named, interestingly enough, because it was easy prey for early settlers, making it the “right” whale to hunt) a rare but incredible sight off the Maine coast. Biden’s NOAA, run by Rhode Island environmental lawyer Janet Coit and a slew of PhD’s with no background in fishing, seems to have taken a short break from their climate change crusade to attack one of Maine’s, and the country’s, critical blue-collar industries.
Protecting whales is a worthwhile goal in theory, but in reality there is no proof that Biden will be helping that cause. The rule shuts down huge swaths of the ocean to Maine lobster fishermen during their peak-season and requires costly changes to their fishing gear. Moreover, this misguided effort is aimed at the wrong target.
In fact, there has never been a right whale death attributed to the Maine lobster industry, with the few deaths that do occur being attributed largely to incidents in Canadian waters. In fact, a Maine lobsterman source that prefers to remain anonymous says that “none of us are even seeing a right whale in the area they are shutting down, and we are out there five days a week staring at the ocean.” What’s more, some of the deaths come from “vessel strikes,” not entanglements in gear.
That fact hasn’t stopped the Biden administration from recently announcing a huge expansion in offshore wind power projects – much of which would occur in the very same waters they are chasing Maine lobstermen from in the name of protecting whales. These ocean wind power projects, which are unlikely to provide much real benefit to anyone, would undoubtedly increase vessel traffic in the waters in question far more than lobster fishing. The move has left many Mainers frustrated, pointing out that the real danger to whales is the massive increase in vessel traffic that would result from the construction.
So why is the Biden administration attacking the lobster industry while bragging about expansions in another industry that would appear to have even more negative impact on whales?
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, who touted the Biden administration’s proposed increase in ocean wind power, was also the one who hired Janet Coit to run NOAA and oversee the new lobster fishing rules. Coit worked for then-Governor Raimondo in Rhode Island, where the pair oversaw the “first two major offshore wind power projects” in the nation, and had to fight off the fishing industry in Rhode Island to do so. As Coit killed jobs in her home state, she coldly explained that “conflicts between offshore wind — which, to meet our clean energy goals, needs to be scaled up — and other ocean uses, primarily fishing, are the rubber meeting the road right now.” In other words, Coit, and by extension Raimondo, were fine with sacrificing the Rhode Island fishing industry in the name of her environmentalist pipe dreams. Now the two are bringing their desire to increase wind power to Maine, with costs to the fishing industry – and potentially right whale populations – be damned.
While the Biden administration attacks this centuries-old blue-collar American industry, just like it has with the energy industry, Biden’s team of climate change crusaders continues to prop up the favored pet projects of his ultra-left political allies. This troubling trend has jeopardized the health of Maine’s economy and brought about a sighting even rarer than a right whale off the Maine coast – political unity in the face of another Biden attack on ordinary, hard-working Americans.