A national fishing industry group is using local workers to put human faces on the plight that the commercial fishing sector faces amid the trade fight with China.
The National Fisheries Institute just released a series of videos featuring New Englanders — a processing plant manager in Boston, a Quincy seafood shop owner, a supplier to Maine lobstermen — extolling the virtues of free trade. Institute spokesman Gavin Gibbons says the group started featuring people in the Northeast because of the balance of import and export work that happens here. You can’t treat fish like steel, he says. Commercial fishermen, for the most part, face strict federal quotas. There’s simply no way to ramp up domestic production if it becomes tough to import seafood.
Gibbons’ group fears imports will become much more challenging if the Trump administration follows through on plans to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on seafood imports from China. An NFI lobbyist will testify before the International Trade Commission on Aug. 20 to argue against them. (NFI represents all corners of the industry: fishermen, retailers, wholesalers.)
The US has plunged headlong into a tit-for-tat fight. China has already imposed a 25 percent tariff on US seafood exports, much to the chagrin of the lobstermen who had found a burgeoning new foreign market in that country.
The blowback has been noticed on Capitol Hill. After the Trump administration endorsed a $12 billion aid package to farmers affected by this trade tiff, Representative Seth Moulton joined a few colleagues to press the administration for similar relief for commercial fishermen. (Moulton, a North Shore native, represents the fishing port of Gloucester.)
The seafood industry isn’t for the faint of heart. The regulatory and market challenges are constant — and that’s just for those who don’t need to brave the risks of the open ocean. This trade spat with China adds one more unwanted complication to the mix.