Gina Raimondo received praise from fishing industry stakeholders on Thursday, 7 January, after reports broke that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden would choose her as his Commerce secretary.
National Fisheries Institute President John Connelly called Raimondo, who is currently the governor of the U.S. state of Rhode Island, an innovator capable of balancing the needs of conservation and commerce.
“We are encouraged that President-elect Biden has chosen a policymaker from a coastal state, who knows the importance of harvesting and the full seafood supply chain, for this leadership position,” Connelly said in a statement.
Leigh Habeggar, the executive director of Seafood Harvesters of America, said in a statement that she hopes Raimondo’s experience in working with commercial fishermen will carry over from her state to the nation’s capital.
“In particular, her leadership on the Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) will be useful as the Commerce Department navigates ambitious offshore wind goals,” Hebeggar said. “We look forward to her swift confirmation and working with Ms. Raimondo and the Department of Commerce on ensuring that our commercial fishermen have a seat at the table during these, and other fisheries management, discussions.”
Christopher Brown, Seafood Harvesters of America founding president and current board member, was a little more guarded in his comments. Brown also serves as the current president of the Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association.
“As the possible Commerce secretary, she will have to find a harmonious existence for both the fishing industry and the offshore wind industry,” he said. “Hopefully her time in Rhode Island has granted her the wisdom to make sound choices to ensure the delivery of both. I hope that the commercial industry doesn't become collateral damage of greater blind ambition.”
If approved, Raimondo would replace Wilbur Ross, who has served as U.S. President Donald Trump’s Commerce secretary since February 2017. Ross has been responsible for pushing Trump’s “Blue Economy” initiatives, which included working on ways to reduce the country’s seafood trade deficit.
A few commercial fishing advocates, though, are hoping the new administration will do away with some of Trump’s fishing priorities.
“I urge Gov. Raimondo to turn the page on the past administration’s unpopular agenda to push development of an unnecessary and unwanted marine finfish farming industry in the U.S.,” said Marianne Cufone, executive director of Recirculating Farms Coalition, which has filed lawsuits opposing some of the Trump administration’s moves to expand aquaculture in the United States. “It’s long past time for our Commerce leaders to prioritize sustainable seafood production over the profits of corporations that will likely bring health risks and pollution to our coastal communities and little else.”
It's uncertain when exactly Raimondo might step into the role. Her appointment will require Senate confirmation, and that process cannot begin until Biden is sworn into office on 20 January.
Raimondo herself spoke about the position on her personal Twitter page Thursday night, though she did not reference the seafood industry in her remarks.
“Rhode Island may be small, but our economy is mighty on the strength of our small businesses and innovative technologies,” she said. “As secretary of Commerce, I will harness that same American ingenuity to create good-paying union jobs and build our economy back better than ever before.”
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