Jerry Leeman III grew up in a family of commercial fishermen in Harpswell, Maine, and says he and others are ready to oppose aggressive federal regulations that could strike a “death blow” to their livelihoods.

After being in commercial fishing for 28 years, this week he launched the New England Fishermen Stewardship Association, the first umbrella organization for fishermen in the six-state region. 

Under the Biden administration, in 2022, federal regulators imposed an 82% reduction in allowable catch of haddock—one of the most commonly consumed fish in the United States. 

“These regulations are a death blow in destroying fishing in the U.S.,” Leeman told The Daily Signal in an interview. “It will be tough to have a viable industry if this doesn’t change. How do we pay our fishermen?”

The catch restrictions—combined with the administration’s push for wind farms and environmental, social, governance policies—are harmful to fishermen, the association says. 

Leeman, now a resident of New Bedford, Massachusetts, has typically spent about 230 days per year at sea. For the past 14 years, he has been the captain of the F/V Teresa Marie IV.

The Biden administration catch reduction harms the broader U.S. economy, as Canada and other countries are flooding their U.S. markets with their catches–which could likely boost prices for consumers, Leeman said. Already, at least 70% of the seafood available in U.S. markets is from foreign sources, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

The same fish swim along the U.S.-Canada border, but Canadian fishermen work in a better regulatory environment. 

“Fish don’t know there is a border. Canada has a higher yield per tow for their catch,” he said. “Canada can catch and filet the fish, and has a free pass to sell it in the U.S. market. They have regulations, too. We all play the same ballgame, but the U.S. is three strikes you’re out, and Canada gets to have five strikes before being out.”

NOAA closed lobster fisheries in Massachusetts from February through April owing to the threat lobster gear allegedly poses to endangered right whales

The Biden administration’s offshore wind-energy development will permanently block access to productive fishing grounds, according to the New England fishermen’s group. About 10 million acres were designated for wind development in the Georges Bank, a large elevated area of the seafloor between Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia, and the Gulf of Maine alone. 

That can change fish-migration patterns and deplete populations, according to European studies cited by the fishermen’s organization. Moreover, the group contends foreign green energy companies and ESG funds are backing those development projects. 

“The Biden administration is pro-wind, but it’s based on bad data and virtue-signaling,” Leeman told The Daily Signal.

Effective fishery management starts with accurate scientific information, and U.S. law requires that fishery managers use the best science available to make those decisions, NOAA spokesperson Allison Ferreira says.

“In New England, we work closely with our partner, the New England Fishery Management Council, to manage U.S fish stocks off the New England coast, such as haddock, using scientific data from a variety of sources, ranging from NOAA surveys to catch-and-discard information submitted to us by fishermen,” Ferreira told The Daily Signal in an email statement. 

“Additionally, the U.S. and Canada work together through participation in the Transboundary Management Guidance Committee (TMGC) to set annual quotas for a portion of the Georges Bank haddock stock, as well as Georges Bank yellowtail flounder and a portion of the Georges Bank cod stocks,” Ferreira continued. “The Georges Bank stocks are distinct and managed separately from the Gulf of Maine stocks.

“The U.S. delegation to the TMGC includes managers from the New England Fishery Management Council, representatives of the commercial fishing industry, and scientific and management staff of NOAA Fisheries,” she said.

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