NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — Local fishermen are asking President Donald Trump to deregulate the commercial fishing industry, complaining that quotas are hurting their bottom lines.
A group of Rhode Island fishermen left Point Judith early Wednesday morning to sail to New London, Conn., for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduation. The flotilla, joined by Rhode Island GOP National Committeewoman Lee Ann Sennick, also included fishermen from New York and Connecticut.
“It’s just a very disheartening feeling,” said Aaron Williams, the captain of the Tradition. He was one of the fishermen from Point Judith. “It’s kind of a frustrating thing to see certain species of fish that have rebounded as much as they have, and every year we keep getting stuff taken away from us.”
With signs reading “Please help us” and “Make commercial fishing great again,” the fishermen hoped to catch President Trump’s eye as he arrived at the commencement.
The group says fishing quotas and limits are unnecessary. They also say wind farms and sanctuaries greatly limit where they can practice their trade.
“We’re just trying to let [President Trump] know there is an ocean full of fish out here and the fish have been rebuilt, and we are forced to throw them over dead all day in the name of conservation,” said Brian Loftes, another commercial fisherman. “In the meantime, we’re slowly going out of business because these boats are expensive to run.”
Conservationists, however, warn that getting rid of quotas could disrupt the delicate ecosystems of the ocean.
“I think it would be devastating to the industry if we saw regulations go away,” said Michael Jarbeau, the Baykeeper at Save the Bay. His organization advocates to protect Narragansett Bay. “If there were no quotas, it’s extremely possible that we would see fish stocks become depleted,” he said.
Depleted fish stocks could throw off the balance of the ocean and affect water quality, according to Save the Bay.
President Trump has generally been supportive of lowering regulations, particularly in the coal industry.
“I’ve loosened up the strangling environmental chains wrapped around our country and our economy,” Trump said in Wednesday’s speech. He didn’t directly address the fishermen.
“People need to realize the fishermen, we are environmentalists. No one has more to gain or lose from a healthy ocean than the people who fish on it,” said Loftes. “We need a healthy ocean, and no one wants it more than we do.”