GUILFORD, Maine. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Crowds of both supporters and protestors of President Trump gathered to see him arrive in Maine on Friday, where he announced a major rollback to the marine conservation land off the New England coast.
President Trump landed at Bangor International Airport on Friday afternoon, and spoke at a roundtable for fisheries stakeholders before visiting a coronavirus swab manufacturing facility.
At the fisheries roundtable, the President announced that he would be ending protections for the Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, 4,900 square miles of marine life in underwater canyons and seamounts 130 miles off the Massachusetts coastline.
The ocean conservation area was closed off by the Obama Administration in September 2016 to save whales and allow marine life to recover from overfishing. However, it did make an exemption to allow for fishing for lobster and red crab until 2023.
“We're opening it up today," said Trump. "We’re undoing his executive order. What was his reason? He didn’t have a reason, in my opinion."
The President said the move to end the protections will allow for commercial fishing to return to what is currently the only national marine conservation area in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean.
National Fishermen reports that Maggie Raymond, executive director of the Associated Fisheries in Maine said the process by which the monument was established was "nontransparent" and did not allow for "stakeholder input."
In Guilford, as Trump's motorcade approached the Puritan Medical Products facility, the streets were lined with people holding signs with messages ranging from "Trump 2020" to "Black Lives Matter."
Trump spoke to workers inside Puritan, which is one of the two largest worldwide manufacturers of medical swabs. He told the crowd he had just solved a big problem for the state's lobster fisherman, and he thanked the staff for their work.
The President then toured the swab manufacturing facility without wearing a mask or any protective gear. According to USA Today, the company said an entire days-worth of swabs manufactured in the background during Trump's visit will ultimately have to be thrown in the trash.
The Trump Administration's announcement about the Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument was quickly denounced by several organizations and politicians, including U.S. Senator Angus King.
“The President’s decision today ... won’t improve the prospects for our fishermen a fraction as much as reconsidering the tariffs that have wiped out years of time, toil, and energy invested by our seafood industry in developing new markets around the globe," King said in a statement.
"To make matters worse, while other agricultural producers, who are suffering similar losses as a result of these trade wars, receive significant support – financial and otherwise – Maine’s seafood industry has largely been left to weather this storm alone. If the President truly wants to take action to help Maine fishermen, I’d urge him to start with those tariffs," said King.
The New England Aquarium also called the President's move "the wrong decision."
"Hundreds of different species live in these protected waters, including colorful and long-lived deep-sea corals, rare fish, elusive octopus, and charismatic whales and dolphins," said a statement from the Aquarium.
"Scientists at the New England Aquarium conduct aerial surveys of the Monument to document the extraordinary diversity of animals at the surface. During those flights, our scientists have observed pods of dolphins 1,000 strong feeding on the rich abundance of squid at the surface. Most recently, two blue whales were spotted there for the first time. Our research at the surface, together with our partners’ research under the water, shows us what a special place this is."
Within 24 hours of Trump's announcement, an online petition started by the National Ocean Protection Coalition had garnered nearly 15,000 signatures calling for the protections to be left in place.
(Photo: Getty Images)