Big Brother on America’s Fishing Boats

Salt water. Seagulls. Striped bass.

Government overregulation is destroying the fishing industry in unbelievable ways and Michelle Malkin is setting out to expose it all.
Government overregulation is destroying the fishing industry in unbelievable ways and Michelle Malkin is setting out to expose it all.

U.S.A.-( My fondest childhood memories come from fishing with my dad on the creaky piers and slick jetties of the Jersey shore. The Atlantic Ocean is in my blood. So when fishing families in New England reached out to me for help spreading word about their economic and regulatory struggles, I immediately heeded their call.

Now, these “forgotten men and women” of America hope the Trump administration will listen. And act.

The plague on the commercial fishing industry isn't “overfishing,” as environmental extremists and government officials claim. The real threats to Northeastern groundfishermen are self-perpetuating bureaucrats, armed with outdated junk science, who've manufactured a crisis that endangers a way of life older than the colonies themselves.

Hardworking crews and captains have the deepest stake in responsible fisheries management — it's their past, present, and future — but federal paper-pushers monitor them ruthlessly like registered sex offenders.

Generations of schoolchildren have been brainwashed into believing that our seas have been depleted by greedy commercial fishermen. In the 1960s and 1970s, it is true, foreign factory trawlers from Russia and Japan pillaged coastal groundfish stocks. But after the domestic fishing industry regained control of our waters, stocks rebounded.

Reality, however, did not fit the agenda of scare-mongering environmentalists and regulators who need a perpetual crisis to justify their existence. To cure a manufactured “shortage” of bottom-dwelling groundfish, Washington micromanagers created a permanent thicket of regional fishery management councils, designated fishing zones, annual catch limits, individual catch limits and “observers” mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Even more frustrating for the fishing families who know the habitat best, the federal scientists' trawler surveys for assessing stocks use faulty nets that vastly underestimate stock abundance.

Meghan Lapp, a lifelong fisherwoman and conservation biologist, points out that government surveyors use a “net that's not the right size for the vessel,” which produces “a stock assessment that shows artificially low numbers. The fishing does not match what the fishermen see on the water.”

Instead of fixing the science, top-down bureaucrats have cracked down on groundfishermen who fail to comply with impossible and unreasonable rules and regulations. The observer program, which was intended to provide biological data and research, was expanded administratively (not by Congress) to create “At Sea Monitors” who act solely as enforcement agents.

Yes, Big Brother dispatches a fleet of spies to track and ticket commercial fishing families while they work. And the biggest slap in the face? New England groundfishermen have to pay for it. A study done by the National Marine Fisheries Service estimates the program costs about $710 per day or $2.64 million per year.

Last fall, I visited the Williams family, which owns two fishing vessels based in Point Judith, Rhode Island, and Stonington, Connecticut, to see the crushing impact of this ever-intrusive bureaucracy for myself. Patriarch and small-business owner Tom Williams Sr. began fishing with his father-in-law in the 1960s. Son Tom Jr. captains the Heritage, which harvests cod, flounder and haddock. Son Aaron operates the Tradition, which harvests scup, whiting, squid and sea bass. Grandson Andrew, 20, is the fourth-generation fisherman in the family.

“What we do is feed America,” soft-spoken Tom Sr. told me. “We're not just indiscriminately raping the ocean, we're trying to feed people — feed them good, healthy, quality fish.”

Long before he departs from the dock, Tom Jr. must seek permission to do his job.

“Before we sail, we have to do declarations on our boat tracks, which is a vessel monitoring system,” Tom Jr. explained. “We have to declare what areas we're going to be fishing in. We also have to submit a sector-trip start hail and operator's permit number. … (Then) you have to submit a daily task report, what area you were in, and all the species that you caught.”

On top of all that, an at-sea observer boards the Williams' boats and bunks in tight quarters with the crew, looking over their shoulders at every turn. Over the years, the expanding reach of regulators has become overbearing and, as brother Aaron described it, “humiliating.”

David Goethel, a boat captain and research biologist who served on the New England fishery management council, sued to overturn the unfunded at-sea monitoring mandate. But he was rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court last fall because he filed the suit too late.

He worries not only about his survival and the fate of the New England groundfishing industry, but about the precedent this power and money grab has set.

“There's nothing to stop other government agencies from doing an end-run on Congress to get a budget increase by passing off their regulatory cost to the regulated public,” Goethel warned.

For his part, 20-year-old Andrew Williams hopes someone in Washington will ignore the environmental propaganda he has been taught in the classroom and get the facts.

Working on the seas “is all I ever known,” he told me. “It started when I was 8 years old, and I never thought about doing anything else.”

Like his family, neighbors and crewmates, he is hoping President Donald Trump can help make commercial fishing great again by getting government out of the way.

About Michelle MalkinMichelle Malkin

Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on As well as the author of “Who Built That: Awe-Inspiring Stories of American Tinkerpreneurs” and “Sold Out: How High-Tech Billionaires & Bipartisan Beltway Crapweasels Are Screwing America…” . Her email address is [email protected]

  • 11 thoughts on “Big Brother on America’s Fishing Boats

    1. I used to be a commercial fisherman out of Boston, MA. I left the business in 1985 and even then the regulations amounted to great waste. When I visited a few years later it was sad to see how many people were put out of work because of the mounting regulations. I hope the Trump administration will see it’s way to deregulate the fishing industry in order to make it a great way to live again.

    2. Nice slanted argument here. Wow, commercial fisherman have regulations they have to adhere to. Life is sure tough. Don’t like someone looking over your shoulder all the time? Try being a cop.

      1. Men have been fishing the coastal waters of North America for FOUR HUNDRED YEARS without gummit nannies invading the boats as they work. Enough regulations to protect the fisheries, keep the catch safe, and not endanger the fishermen is fine.. though most folks would do that anyway. WHY is it that some FedGov nannie must actaully be abaord the vessels? Working vessels are already very tight quarters. Now we have to put up with one more body who may or may not have a clue what life aboard is, how to work, or if not work, keep the heck outta the way wo as not to endanger the real crew. If those nannies were good crew, why are they working for gummit they’d have a berth on a working boat. Many of the regulations are stupid, accomplish nothing beneficial, and take away from the public by adding unneeded costs that bring no ROI in two ways: first, the nannie myst be paid, and pensioned, and that comes out of the public pocket. Second, they and their stupid regs make more work for the crew (tallying every fish that comes out of the net?) so they spend more hours per net tonne of fish to market. And to what benefit? Just like with forestry, the folks who OWN timberlands know best how to manage THEIR lands. But now, along some USFS, USDA, and the illegal EPA, and make dumb decisioins based on political correctness (s opposed to proven science), and have destroyed a once viable and profitable timber production industry in the Pacific Northwest. Let FedGov operate outside the box assigned it by our Constitution, and nothing survives intact.

    3. And they have just done the same to our Nations truckers. Put a federal and state officer in EVERY commercial vehicle begining last month. The truckers had to pay for the tracking devices, and pay a monthly fee to the tech giants to transfer every bit of every trucks information to the government regulators in real time. Any federal agency can now access the location, speed, name of current driver, criminal, traffic law violation history of driver, employer, credit report, how long he has been driving down to the minute, when and where he has ever stopped, and where he has ever been since Dec ’17. They know every piece of info the trucks computer monitors, engine RPM, temp, which gear you are in, and even if your seatbelt is on and if the doors are locked. Which lights are on and how hard the brakes are applied. We are now constantly be watched and monitored every second of our lives. Even on our time off, we are not allowed to have ANY other employment without reporting it to the Federal Regulators. They require us to now electronically report how long we sleep and when we eat. EVERY truck in the USA is tied in via redundant systems on every truck, using satillite, and cell towers. Any truck not complying is fined $11,000 a day per truck, and company drivers are fined $1,000 a day for non-compliance. Technology is a two-edged sword and the Fed,s are using it against us!

      1. How much you want to bet that all that data is being sold to the companies that are programming the autonomous trucks that will put all the drivers out of work

    4. How come I didn’t hear/see anybody thank the democrats for their continuous reckless acts of “lawmaking” and obstructionism that has been destroying American for decades? Poor refugees from S-hole countries that won’t fight for their own country. BTW, how come American taxpayers have to pay welfare to support these A-holes from S-hole countries? Oops, forgot – leftist “news” orgs are democrats. They will tell any lie to get rid of The Donald. Please hurry with draining the swamp. Keep up the good work, Michelle.

      1. @Herb T, I would like to address your question,” BTW, how come American taxpayers have to pay welfare to support these A-holes from S-hole countries?” The S.Ct. concluded that if a state, county, city government or the federal government decides to create a welfare system, that welfare system must apply to all persons within the particular jurisdiction because the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment apples to all persons, not just citizens. If we changed just the word “person” in the 14th Amendment to “citizen”, then all that welfare to illegal aliens would go away.

        1. No dont change the word “person” to “citizen” there. That would elimitate all who are lawfully here, as iin holders of permanent redisent visas. Change the wording to either “persons lawfully present”, or to “persons subjct to the jurisidiction of the State in which they reside and the UNited States”. THIS is the same language used at the start of this 14th Article of Ammendment when it deals with the issue of natural citizenship. This is the part wrongfully claimed to establish “anchor baby citizenship”, never the intent of that Article.

          How many of we Yanks would ever dream of travelling to any other nation on the planet, taking up temporary residence there, then demaniding from the governments involved that we be clothed, housed, fed, and healed? Most other nations would simply abandon us, leave us to our own devices, the mercy of the locals, some charity organisatio, or allow us to hitchhike to the nearest US Embassy for assistance. The rest would simply put us on a bus to the nearest border crossing and eject us.

          Yet our destroying would-be overlords would have us adopt the delusion that it is “our obligation” to blindly support (and enable) these coddled masses yearning to live freely off our sweat.

      2. how come American taxpayers have to pay welfare to support these A-holes from S-hole countries?

        Same reason ew “have to ” support these A holes from this soon to be Shole country if we don’t get government back into the bottle that is the Constitution. READ that document and then tell me ON WHAT authority FedGov can meddle in fishing, or trucking, or how a “tax” such as the money paid for the Fed welfare thief with a government issued costume (and almost certainly a gun) to take up space on a commercial fishboat while working, can be passed into law and enforced when said law did not originate in the House of Representatives. Don’t forget… FIsheries is part of NOAA, the same government brood of vipers who have shoved “global warming/coolong.change? down our throats, sideways.

    5. Exactly why my pond and lake boat has a 9.9 four stroke,No state or Federal regulations and I’m just a pleasure fisherman..
      Now in the state I reside they are considering in the crime syndicate aka the state house of requiring all bicycles being registered.

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