TURNER: Democrats’ Green Agenda Will Gut America’s Oldest Industry And Turn Coastal Towns Into The New Appalachia

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Daniel Turner Contributor
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President Joe Biden likes to say that he’s the best friend the working man has ever had in the White House. The fishing communities he’s destroying to affect the green transition might disagree.

Biden’s regulators are driving fishermen of all kinds off the water in droves, while offshore wind development his administration backs is threatening access to productive fishing grounds. Coastal towns keyed to commercial fishing—like Stonington, Maine or Grand Isle, Louisiana—are facing social and economic oblivion.

Fishermen are not a powerful political constituency. They do not give lavishly to politicians or command a powerful lobby in Washington. Of late, fishermen in the north Atlantic formed a grassroots organization, the New England Fishermen Stewardship Association (NEFSA), to advocate for jobs, coastal communities, and sustainable management of our oceans.

NEFSA’s good work will mean little without support from lawmakers. There are easy steps elected officials can take now to save their fishermen constituents. Lawmakers representing blue collar communities ought to join with them, mindful that leftwing environmental objectives are too often accomplished at the expense of working Americans.

First, lawmakers should demand federal regulators produce data that forms the basis of new restrictions on landings. Quotas for some species will fall as much as 80 percent this spring, a devastating development for the U.S. fleet. Fishermen say these restrictions are based on woefully incomplete surveys of fish stocks. Population surveys only recently resumed following a years-long hiatus during the pandemic.

Less abundant fish stocks are inconsistent with the industry’s experience. Fishermen have not noticed the steep declines in biomass abundance government scientists believe is happening. These are anecdotal observations, but we can reasonably give credence to the industry’s view. Fishermen work and cover far more water than government regulators. And we can count on them for a clear-eyed assessment – their long-term success depends on a robust, sustainable biomass.

Second, lawmakers must stop hobbling the fleet and ensure they compete with foreign counterparts on equal terms. Current regulatory practices put our fishermen at the disadvantage. For example, as NEFSA executive director Jerry Leeman explained in a recent column, federal regulations force American fishermen to deploy nets with lower yields as compared to Canadian fishermen. The Canadian boats land more fish than American boats, then come to the United States and compete in our market.

Lobstermen face similar difficulties. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is closing portions of the fishery near Massachusetts and Maine to protect an endangered species of whale (which spends little time in these waters). NMFS is also requiring lobstermen to take ropes and traps out of the water to head off whale entanglements. All this despite the fact Canadian snow crab fishermen are disproportionately responsible for whale injuries, while facing no like restrictions.

Third, friendly lawmakers should push blue state governments to be transparent about their contracts with offshore wind farm developers. Voters need to know what kind of terms their government is striking with foreign entities, given the cost to American workers.

It’s instructive that blue state governments and their foreign green energy partners are concealing basic facts about energy projects now under way. For example, New Jersey has leased space in a state-built wind farm staging facility to at least two firms, Ørsted and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind. But the state won’t disclose the basic terms of these contracts, such as the amount each company is paying for their lease.

Orstead is a Danish company. Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind bills itself as a 50:50 partnership between two American subsidiaries of foreign companies—Shell, based in the U.K., and French operator EDF Renewables. Whether by ordinary oversight or recourse to freedom of information laws, all state contracts with these entities should be publicized.

It’s no answer to say that job losses among fishermen will be offset by job creation elsewhere. That’s the kind of technocratic flesh calculus that is fueling populist discontent across the world. Moreover, the blue-collar jobs wind development creates are largely short-term. “Knowledge economy” jobs dominate wind farm operation and maintenance. Grey-haired fishermen will not go back to school to become engineers and energy brokers.

This kind of indifference to the working class is typical of environmental policymaking in recent decades. Courts and regulators condemned northwest logging communities to ruin to save the spotted owl. “Appalachia” is a byword for misbegotten without coal. Fishermen face the same calamity unless friendly lawmakers step up on their behalf.

Daniel Turner is executive director of Power the Future, a nonprofit offering truth, facts, and research to enrich the national conversation on energy.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.