Fish Out of Water

Ty Aravazhi Contributor
Fish Out of Water
Read Time: approx. 2:31

Cover: Fort Lauderdale Beach, Fort Lauderdale, United States. Photo taken during the morning of the Emerill Lagasse Fishing Tournament in Fort Lauderdale Florida. Photo by AH360 Photography.

Fish Out of Water: Last week, President Trump issued an executive order designed to support and revive the American seafood industry. The order aims to “create and sustain American jobs, put safe and healthy food on American tables, and contribute to the American economy.” Background: “Despite America’s bountiful aquatic resources, by weight our Nation imports over 85 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States,” the order reads. “At the same time, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing undermines the sustainability of American and global seafood stocks, negatively affects general ecosystem health, and unfairly competes with the products of law-abiding fishermen and seafood industries around the world.” In order to fix these problems, the Executive Order proposes that, by removing outdated and unnecessarily burdensome regulations; strengthening efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; improving the transparency and efficiency of environmental reviews; and renewing our focus on long-term strategic planning to facilitate aquaculture projects, we can protect our aquatic environments; revitalize our Nation’s seafood industry; get more Americans back to work; and put healthy, safe food on our families’ tables.” Here’s what each side is saying.

On one hand: Environmentalists and organizations committed to ecological conservation have vehemently criticized the President’s actions. They believe that the Executive Order will worsen the conditions of oceans and critical bodies of water. More specifically, critics believe relaxed regulations will amplify corporate exploitation of aquatic environments and allow for the creation of “‘floating factory farms’ that pump pollution and diseases into public waters.” Environmental attorney Marianne Cufone says, “The federal government should strengthen local food security during this health crisis by supporting sustainable seafood, rather than allowing corporations to pollute the ecosystems we depend on.” Ultimately, environmentalists are concerned that the order will allow large corporations to “plunder the oceans without oversight.”

On the other hand: Supporters believe the Executive Order is a step in the right direction to support the global food supply chain during the pandemic. On a domestic level, Joe Grogan and Peter Navarro (advisers to the President) believe the decision will “help reduce pain in the grocery checkout line—and also strengthen U.S. food production against foreign competition.” They present their case for the executive order in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, assuring readers that it will “find new markets for American seafood products and identify unfair trade barriers, it also supports industry research, removes unnecessary regulations on commercial fishermen, and streamlines the aquaculture permitting process.” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross also praised the decision, saying, “Today, President Trump took bold action to secure America’s place as a seafood superpower by removing unnecessary regulations that restrict our seafood industry.” The primary justification behind this move is that it will stimulate the seafood industry, create more jobs, and it will serve to protect consumers from illegal fishing practices.

Flag This: Many Americans don’t understand that food is a national security issue. In 2008 global food prices skyrocketed and riots broke out in more than 40 countries across the world, resulting in several protracted conflicts. Moreover, there is a direct link between food insecurity and political stability. As the CSIS notes, “to mitigate the risks associated with economic and food security, long-term efforts underscored by strong U.S. leadership are required.” On one hand, the President’s actions should be celebrated. Ideally, they will create jobs for Americans that are desperately needed, while ensuring food security for the United States. On the other, “congressional oversight and guidance are crucial in maintaining the leadership that the United States is known for in global development.” The fact that this decision was made unilaterally, and fell to the back pages of newspapers around the country is concerning.