It is the most voluminously caught fish in the United States, accounting for a quarter of everything Americans catch. As such it is the major bulwark against the United States’ multibillion-dollar seafood trade deficit — the second-largest deficit in our trade portfolio, after crude oil. And it is, today, the main component in the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish, or the “fish delight,” as Donald Trump likes to call it.
Now consider the president’s budget for the people who make his preferred sandwich possible.
If Congress seriously entertains the White House’s suggestions, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — a popular target for conservatives, who see it primarily as a source of pesky climate-change research — and the National Marine Fisheries Service it oversees will lose 17 percent of its funding. This despite Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’s desire to “try to figure how we can become much more self-sufficient in fishing and perhaps even a net exporter.”
As the three of us consider this statement, a common wry fisherman’s response comes to our lips: Yeah, good luck with that, buddy.
Because of repeated sacrifices made by American fishermen working with NOAA over the past 40 years, the United States now has the most robust and well-managed wild fisheries in the world. Federal observers oversee 99 percent of the large trawlers fishing for pollock, ensuring that this largest of fisheries maintains an impeccable set of management tools.
But in spite of all of our success, only around 9 percent of the seafood available in American markets comes from American fishermen. In fact, the last traditional fishing communities in the United States are fighting for their very existence. Fair-trade local fishermen remain unable to compete in our domestic marketplace, which is overwhelmed and flooded with cheap, untraceable imported seafood.