What might the election of Donald Trump mean for the seafood industry? Economic reports already are pointing to his platform of opposing trade and pulling out of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a stance that goes against more than 30 years of American policy under presidents of both parties.

Donald Trump. Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore.NAFTA connects trade between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, and Trump has pledged to impose trade barriers that could reduce markets for  seafood and other U.S. exports and drive up the cost of imports, causing banks to restrict lending, according to the New York Times.

It also is a foregone conclusion that he will tank the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership.  If Trump does implement trade protectionist policies, it could tip the economy into a recession, cautioned global economists.

Trump also has vowed to place a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports and declare China a currency manipulator on his first day in office. How this will affect the millions of pounds of Alaska seafood that are sent to China for reprocessing and then shipped back for sales in the U.S. is anyone’s guess.

The Wall Street Journal said Trump’s victory could begin “an era of U.S. combativeness” with two of our biggest trade partners — China and Mexico — and prompt trade wars and stall international growth. 

Tom Sunderland, vice president of marketing and communications Ocean Beauty Seafood agrees.            

“But it’s far too early to speculate on what any of this might mean. We will just have to wait and see, and deal with any changes as they come, he said.”

While Trump’s positions might not pose any direct changes for U.S. fisheries, his vision to “explode fossil fuel development across the nation, including coal” will have a long-term impact on our oceans. Trump has widely claimed that the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. 

He has called for gutting the Environmental Protection Agency and is likely to name a top climate skeptic, Myron Ebell, to lead the charge. Like Trump, Ebell calls climate change “bullshit,” and both have vowed to ‘cancel’ the Paris global warming accord signed by nearly 200 nations that sets targets to reverse the worst effects of global warming.       

Scientific American reports that Ebell has called President Obama’s Clean Power Plan for greenhouse gasses “illegal” and boasts that he has been dubbed a ‘climate criminal’ by Greenpeace. 

The topic is likely to dominate discussions during a special Friday afternoon seminar at Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle. Terry Johnson, a Fisheries Professor and Sea Grant Marine Advisor in Anchorage, will present the most current science on a warming world and off kilter ocean chemistry. A main focus is to hear ideas from fishermen and coastal community reps on how they plan to adapt to the inevitable. 

Changes could include things like moving towards bigger, multi-fisheries vessels that allow for more flexibility, and modifying regulatory regimes that lift some of the restrictions on moving from one fishing area to another.

“We have seen a number of climate related changes but they are more results of temporary climate variations, such as El Niño’s and regime shifts on the order of a year or a decade or more. But in the long term, things have not yet been sufficiently dramatic so industry has had to make big changes yet,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Johnson said he is very concerned that a Trump administration will slash climate change science.

“Federal scientists and others are doing very important work that will eventually help inform us about how to adapt to climate changes – if that funding is cut off, we’re going to be working in the dark.”


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