As Jerry Maguire said: Help me help you.

This week I launched the New England Fishermen Stewardship Association, a nonprofit, non-partisan advocacy group to promote the interests of working fishermen and sound stewardship of our ocean. I’m pleased that men and women from across the fleet – offshoremen, clammers, lobstermen, tuna boat captains and scientists – have joined our board of directors to work collaboratively for the first time in living memory.

No one would accuse New England fishermen of getting along well. For the sake of our livelihoods and the prosperity of our maritime communities, that has to change.

The fleet must pull together because each of us, no matter our trade, faces common threats. The challenges are many, but two take precedence. First, zealous regulators are fashioning restrictions so dramatic they will drive us off of the water. Second, foreign green energy companies are investing aggressively in offshore wind farm development, which will permanently close huge swaths of the fishery to our boats.

Both problems independently constitute a mortal threat to our jobs and our heritage. In sum, many fishermen believe there’s no hope for the future. Although my family has worked the Gulf of Maine for generations, I can’t teach this trade to my sons in good conscience.

Take the regulatory regime. I’m bracing for an 82% reduction for authorized haddock landings set to take effect on May 1. I’m trying to figure out how to profitably run a voyage with a fraction of the haddock yield. This new restriction is based on faulty and incomplete assessments of our fish stocks, as the New England Fishermen Stewardship Association will show in the coming weeks. I hope we can convince regulators – or courts – in time to help working people. My margins are already tight.


The lobstermen similarly face regulatory oblivion. The National Marine Fisheries Service crafted a plan that means to protect whales by getting ropes and lobster traps out of the Gulf of Maine. The ultimate objective seems to be a forced transition to pricey rope-less trap technology most lobstermen cannot afford. All this despite the fact that there has not been a documented whale entanglement traceable to Maine’s lobstermen since 2004.

Offshore captains like me and lobstermen aren’t known to get along. We haven’t worked together in the past to advance our common interests. This must change.

On top of this regulatory onslaught, energy officials and foreign green energy companies are working together to develop offshore wind farms that threaten our access to fish stocks. I live in Maine. About 10 million acres off the coast of my state alone is designated “draft call area,” that is, designated for offshore wind development.

I’m a trawler. I cannot run a net off the back of my boat with wind turbines obstructing the water column. Other fishermen face similar challenges. Can lobstermen lay traps near the turbines? Can they safely retrieve traps if it’s even possible to lay them? How are they supposed to safely anchor near a turbine in a 10-foot swell?

The fleet will have three choices. We can venture farther out into the ocean into more treacherous waters at great personal risk. We can cleave to bays and estuaries near to shore, the nurseries of the very fish stocks out-of-state agitators imagine they are protecting. Or we can quit. Many fishermen have already given up, and I fear still more will soon follow.

Perhaps that is the point. Perhaps the powers that be prefer that Americans buy fish from aquaculture giants and multinational corporations (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration acknowledges that we import at least 75% of our seafood) rather than American fishermen. Perhaps they are keen to clear the waters for the wind farms.

Foreign fish producers and foreign energy companies stand to make a lot at the expense of New England’s working people. Fishermen are not the only ones at risk. The fleet supports processing facilities, dockyards and transportation jobs, together representing thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

I encourage all people of good will – Democrats and Republicans, clam boats and hook boats, workers and environmentalists – to join with NEFSA to protect our jobs, the onshore workers who depend on us, and the maritime heritage we fishermen have proudly stewarded since the founding of America. The future being made for our region excludes us from our oceans and our maritime heritage – our sacred inheritance.

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