Home / General / The “Environmentalists Are Killing Our Jobs” Claim, New England Edition

The “Environmentalists Are Killing Our Jobs” Claim, New England Edition

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The other day, I noted how the argument that the environmentalists cost jobs in the Pacific Northwest timber industry was completely bogus. But it’s not as if workers themselves don’t believe it. And they aren’t going to back down on that either because it provides them an enemy, someone to blame for their predicament that doesn’t require them to challenge their worldview.

It’s not really any different in the fishing industry in New England. Trump, in yet another of his horrible anti-environmental moves that would happen in any generic Republican administration, has stripped the no-fishing restrictions from the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument. The whole point of these things was to protect the wildlife that lives in them from the rapacious global fishing industry that has strip-mined the oceans. There’s really not a lot left out there.

Removal of restrictions for an underwater national park sealed off from commercial fishing trawlers and lobstermen will now provide a bonanza of opportunities for fishing boats in Point Judith, said Fred Mattera, advocate for commercial fishing.

According to Mattera, executive director of the Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island, this once lucrative fishing spot will now again enable them to bring back large hauls to be sold to for restaurants, grocery stores and ingredients for other foods.

Last Friday President Trump removed those restrictions and opened the area once more to fishing, but the decision has produced an outcry from various environmental groups warning of the potential destruction to unique marine life.

Called the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, just off the New England coast, President Obama’s administration ended fishing there and closed off almost 5,000-square miles of ocean to prevent fishing there.

“There was never a need for it in the first place,” said Mattera, whose offices are located on the East Farm Campus of the University of Rhode Island in Kingston.

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is made of sprawling underwater mountain ranges and vast canyons. From the surface of the ocean, it’s impossible to see the vibrant Connecticut-size, deep-sea world unless you dive beneath the surface, according to National Geographic.

While commercial fisherman, such as those in Point Judith’s Port of Galilee, have been banned from the area, sportfishing has been allowed.

Because of the economic downturn from the coronavirus, commercial fishermen are seeking regulatory relief to help them through the pandemic, which closed restaurants and hotels, major purchasers of fish.

On May 7, the president announced a new initiative promoting economic growth of the American seafood industry. This action followed by a month.

Mattera maintained that the president’s decision “validates what our rationale was,” which centered on the position that the canyons are so deep and the seamounts so large that the giant fishing trawlers did not and would not tow through the area.

Sigh.

First, there’s no part of the ocean that the fishing industry can’t get to in some way. I am sure that there are extra challenges in the Canyon and Seamounts because of the natural barriers, but this is an extremely high-tech industry that has vacuumed up the ocean in the last two centuries. But there’s as much resentment over fishing restrictions in these coastal fishing towns of Rhode Island and Massachusetts as there is in the timber towns of Oregon and Washington or the dead mining towns of West Virginia and Montana. In each of these cases, a rapacious capitalism unwilling to conserve the resources created disaster for both the environment and for workers. And each has effectively blamed environmentalists. In the case of the fishing industry, the narrative is “the fish are out there but the government and environmentalists won’t let us go find them.” We know this is not true. But that narrative isn’t going away. And every Republican administration is going to repeal whatever protections Democrats can create, whether on land or in the water.

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