Trump plans to open Atlantic sanctuary to commercial fishing: sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is expected to sign a proclamation on Friday that would open up a conservation area in the Atlantic Ocean to commercial fishing, according to two sources familiar with the plan.

U.S. President Donald Trump talks about a U.S. jobs report amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as he addresses a news conference as members of his administration listen in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 5, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The proclamation would allow commercial fishing to resume in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England, a sanctuary created in 2016 during the last year of the Obama administration.

It is also expected to cancel the planned phase out of red crab and lobster fisheries that had been ordered in the 2016 designation, according to the sources.

The proclamation would be the latest attempt by Trump to appeal to working class and blue collar workers in an election year by touting regulatory rollbacks that he says can restore jobs and economic activity.

He will make the announcement at a roundtable with commercial fishermen in Bangor, Maine, where Trump scored a rare win in the Northeast in the 2016 presidential election in the state’s rural 2nd Congressional district.

The White House declined to comment ahead of the announcement.

The commercial seafood industry and the country’s eight regional fishery management councils have pressed the Trump administration to restore commercial fishing in federal waters closed off under monument protections, citing the regulatory burden that they say forces fishermen to travel further with increased operational expenses and safety risks.

Environmental groups, however, warn that allowing commercial fishing in these areas undermines the protections established by the monument designations, putting marine wildlife, including whales, sharks and sea turtles and fragile corals in danger of harm and entanglement in fishing nets.

In 2017, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had recommended that Trump allow commercial fishing in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument. His recommendations came during a sweeping review of national monuments across the country that had been created by previous presidents under the Antiquities Act.

So far Trump has only proceeded to reduce the size of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase monuments, while leaving the other monuments intact. The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase decisions are now being challenged in court.

One source familiar with the upcoming announcement said Trump is unlikely to scale back the size of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine monument.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici, Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Alistair Bell

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