Yesterday, President Trump signed an Executive Order that intends to reduce government regulations and associated costs to businesses and the federal government. The President claims this will help small businesses, but for the men and women making their living off the ocean, the order could pose some serious problems.
Known as “one in two out,” the order states that “for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination.”
How does this relate to fisheries? America’s fishermen are constantly adapting—to new science, to changing conditions on the water and to fishing seasons. They rely on fishery managers to make decisions that weigh environmental conditions, the best available science and fishermen input. Armed with this information, managers develop solutions that not only protect our environment, but support commercial and recreational fishing and coastal communities across America. And the method for implementing these day-to-day management decisions? Regulations.
Fishery regulations open seasons, establish catch quotas and test new management concepts. When a disaster happens, like an oil spill, a toxic algal bloom or a sudden decline in fish populations, regulations are the way the government protects fishermen and consumers.
With this order, when fishery managers need to take any sort of action (for example, open the red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico, or change the number of salmon vessels are allowed to catch in the Pacific) those managers will need to find two other regulations they can nullify. Managers’ hands will be tied.
The point: Regulations support the businesses of American fishermen and seafood consumers. Hamstringing fishery managers from issuing routine rules that are needed to run our nation’s fisheries could cause serious trouble for both fish and fishermen. There are a lot of unanswered questions, and at this point it’s very uncertain how things will work under President Trump’s Executive Order. But what is clear is that fishery management may have just gotten much more difficult.
Our fisheries already face new and growing pressures from pollution, environmental variability, and increased demand on resources. The last thing our fishermen need is a misplaced order that suddenly brings a wave of uncertainty to the basic mechanics of how we manage our nation’s fisheries.