'Almost no one is standing up for New England’s working families, so NEFSA will,' group's executive director tells Fox News Digital
May 2, 2023
EXCLUSIVE: Marine industry stakeholders are joining forces this week to establish the New England Fishermen Stewardship Association (NEFSA), a first-of-its-kind effort to fight back against federal regulations targeting fishermen.
NEFSA – the first umbrella organization representing New England fishermen at a national level – fills an "urgent" need because fishermen don't have a large organized lobby or political presence, the group told Fox News Digital. But, they said, the region's fishing industry has faced a regulatory assault that is threatening thousands of small business operators' way of life.
"Fishermen and fishing communities are facing oblivion thanks to their own government," Jerry Leeman, who will serve as NEFSA's executive director, told Fox News Digital. "Hostile regulators are steadily eroding our ability to make a living, while the offshore wind industry threatens the fleet's access to productive fishing grounds and disrupts the aquatic environment."
According to the group's mission statement, NEFSA is an "alliance of harvesters of our ocean’s food supply" dedicated to educating the public about food management through sound science and best conservation practices with a view toward economic well-being, sustainability and U.S. food security.
NEFSA will particularly focus on federal regulations enforcing an 82% reduction in haddock landings for commercial fishermen, rules requiring less-effective nets the group says disadvantage American fishermen compared to Canadian competitors, and onerous whale-protection regulations restricting gear lobstermen are allowed to use. The group said it is prepared to pursue litigation as part of its efforts.
While the lobstermen rules were temporarily halted late last year following a successful push from Maine's congressional delegation and industry groups, NEFSA said it remains concerned about the possibility of the regulations returning.
And in another example of a regulation NEFSA will seek to protect fishermen from, the National Marine Fisheries Service unexpectedly locked up a vast area off the coast of Massachusetts for three months earlier this year. The rule required fishermen to remove gear from the water and prohibited new gear through Monday.
"Almost no one is standing up for New England’s working families, so NEFSA will," said Leeman.
While NEFSA states it is not opposed to green energy, the group will fight against offshore wind development in New England waters, which it argues blocks fleet access to productive fishing grounds and disrupts the marine environment. The Biden administration is currently seeking to lease federal waters in Maine and Massachusetts to wind developers.
In previous analyses, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees wind leasing in federal waters, has acknowledged that offshore wind development would likely lead to large productive areas being abandoned by commercial fisheries.
The group also expects to publish a report in the next month highlighting the dangers posed by offshore wind and will platform a whistleblower who has first-hand experience of offshore wind surveys that uncovered the extent to which offshore wind construction would harm the environment.
NEFSA's board will be nonpartisan, with Republicans, Democrats and independents, and will be composed of scientists, businessmen and fishermen. Allison Hawkes, a wharf-owner and lobster dealer; Ronald Musetti, the co-founder of the Nor’Easter Pound & Market, a restaurant in Northeast Harbor, Maine; and researcher Robert Burke will be among its board members.
Dustin Delano, a fourth-generation lobsterman and vice president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, will serve as NEFSA's chief operations officer.
As part of its start, NEFSA will launch a five-figure digital ad campaign in Maine and Massachusetts highlighting its mission.