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President Donald Trump’s visit to Maine last week was about image and messaging. That’s how a proclamation to weaken protections at a marine monument far off the coast of Massachusetts was sold as a boon, even a savior, to Maine commercial fishermen.
Before he headed to Guilford to tour a plant that makes swabs used in coronavirus tests, the president held a roundtable in Bangor with fishermen and others in the industry — although about half the conversation was between Trump and former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who the president appointed Friday to oversee a fisheries task force. The centerpiece of the meeting was the president signing a proclamation to allow more commercial fishing in the only marine monument on the east coast.
The Northeast Canyon and Seamounts Marine National Monument was created by executive order in 2016 by then-President Barack Obama. The protected area contains three underwater canyons, one of them deeper than the Grand Canyon, and four underwater mountains that were volcanoes. It is home to diverse wildlife, including corals not found anywhere else. Scientists recently discovered that Atlantic puffins use the area as a wintering area. The combination of deep sea and tall mountains provides a breeding and nursing ground for an array of sea life, including lobsters.
Creating a monument to protect the nearly 5,000 square mile area has long been opposed by commercial fishermen, despite the fact that less than 5 percent of the regional fishing catch comes from the area, which is south of Cape Cod.
The impact of changing the rules for the monument are virtually meaningless for Maine fishermen
Maine’s fishing industry faced many challenges — lack of demand because of the coronavirus pandemic, competition with Canada, endangered species protection and the regulations that come with it. They deserve serious attention, not nearly meaningless proclamations.