President Biden’s decision Friday to ban commercial fishing in an area about 150 miles off the coast was slammed for hurting the seafood industry just as the pandemic seems to be cooling.
The president restored protections in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts located east-southeast off Cape Cod.
The White House said that under its plans, recreational fishing in the monuments area may continue, but commercial fishing will be prohibited, with fishing for red crab and American lobster to be phased out by Sept. 15, 2023. The White House cited the area’s “unique geological features that anchor vulnerable ecological communities threatened by varied uses, climate change and related impacts.”
The monuments area consists of approximately 4,913 square miles.
Biden’s decision to restore protections at the marine monument came down to environmental groups having a stronger lobby than fishing advocates, said Bob Vanasse, executive director of Saving Seafood, a domestic seafood industry group.
“Anyone who likes fresh local swordfish, tuna, lobster and crabmeat should be very angry with the Harris-Biden Administration today,” Vanasse said.
“This is an unfortunate decision that is opposed not only by those affected in the commercial fishing industry, but by all eight fishery management councils and NOAA Fisheries,” he added. “There is no scientific justification to prohibit commercial fishing while allowing recreational fishing. While the Biden-Harris Administration has claimed decisions will be based on science, and not on who has the stronger lobby, this decision shows otherwise.”
A rules change approved by Trump allowed commercial fishing in the area. Trump’s action was heralded by fishing groups but derided by environmentalists who pushed Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to restore protections against fishing.
“There’s nothing like it in the world,” Biden said of the marine monument, citing its “unique biodiversity” and “waters teeming with life, with underwater canyons as deep as parts of the Grand Canyon (and) underwater mountains as tall as the Appalachians. Marine scientists believe that this is a key to understanding life under the sea.”
Also Friday, Biden restored two sprawling national monuments in Utah, reversing a decision by Trump that opened them for mining and other development. The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments in southern Utah encompass more than 3.2 million acres.