Trump reopens marine conservation area to fishing off New England coast
BANGOR, Maine (WKBT) — During a visit to Bangor today, President Donald Trump announced that he was rolling back protections at a marine conservation area off the New England coast.
“We are reopening the Northeast Canyons to commercial fishing,” Trump said during a roundtable with fishing industry representatives and Maine officials. “We’re opening it today.”
Trump, whose trip was one of the few times he has left Washington since the novel coronavirus disrupted the nation in March. then signed the order to resume commercial fishing. Environmentalists are objecting because they insist that the stretch of water is critical for the survival of right whales and other fragile marine life.
In doing so, he turned back the clock on another initiative of former President Barack Obama, who created the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. It was the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean, and one of just five marine monuments nationwide.
The conservation area covers 5,000 square miles east of Cape Cod. It contains vulnerable species of marine life, such as fragile deep sea corals and endangered right whales. The whales, which number only about 400, face danger from ships hitting them and becoming entangled in fishing lines.
Fishermen traditionally had harvested lobsters and crabs in the area. The monument creation drew the ire of commercial fishing groups, some of whom sued.
Trump said Obama’s establishment of the conservation area and banning fishing “was deeply unfair to Maine lobstermen.”
“We want conservation and good environmental practices — that’s very important — but we also want something that’s fair to you,” he told the fishermen.
Environmental groups vowed to push back against the president’s actions.
Trump’s action will devastate protections along that stretch and threatens to eliminate right whales and other endangered marine animals, said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group.
“Gutting these safeguards attacks the very idea of marine monuments,” she said.
The action came a day after the Trump administration enacted an equally sweeping rollback and proposed rollback of public health and environment protections. On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order directing agencies to look for ways to override environmental laws to push big projects such as highways and pipelines to completion.
And the Environmental Protection Agency proposed changing the rules for crafting air pollution limits under the Clean Air Act, which critics say will make it harder to move against dangerous pollutants in the future.
Trump has made a priority of annulling or weakening public health and environmental regulations — especially ones that Obama enacted — that he sees as hampering businesses.
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument already has withstood a legal challenge by fishermen who opposed its creation. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit challenging its creation in 2018, and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the decision in December.
Before the president left Washington to head to Maine, he hailed a better-than-expected jobs report. The unemployment rate dropped to 13.3%, far short of the up to 20 percent some had predicted. However, that still is roughly equivalent to the rate during the Great Depression.
Nonetheless, Trump predicted that the statistics show that the worst of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the economic upheaval it caused are over.
An economic rebound also would be “the greatest thing that can happen for race relations,” he said.
Regarding the race relations issue that had dominated the news for nearly two weeks, Trump declared it is “a great day” for the George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man Minneapolis police killed during an arrest on May 25.
Everyone deserves “equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement, regardless of race, color, gender or creed,” Trump said.
“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country,” he said.
Joe Biden, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, decried Trump’s comments about Floyd as “despicable.”
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