Small business across America have taken a major hit during COVID-19 lockdowns. While Big Box stores have been allowed to stay open and have thrived, mom and pop retailers have been forced to shut down en masse, and many will never reopen.

California’s ruling elite has been as brutal as it has been hypocritical in ensuring that the well-to-do have it easy. The working stiffs, on the other hand, are to shelter in place. Their livelihoods be damned.

In the Golden State, this was how things were done even before the outbreak of the coronavirus. Take California’s commercial fishermen. In 2018, lawmakers in Sacramento approved a law that bans drift gill nets by 2024. The law was championed by environmentalists who claim that drift gill nets pose a serious risk to creatures such as whales and sea turtles. But existing federal and state regulations such as seasonal closures and the required use of acoustic pingers on drift gill nets have already reduced the accidental catch of these species to near zero. But that’s of no interest to virtue-signaling lawmakers in Sacramento and greens in San Francisco, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley.

Targeting Family Businesses

The big losers in all this will be small commercial fishermen. These are typically family-owned businesses, many of them going back several generations. Especially hard hit will be swordfish fishermen. Drift gillnets are the only sensible way to catch swordfish, a favorite of seafood diners the world over. Fishermen specializing in catching swordfish will go out of business if the drift gillnet law is allowed to stay on the books. There’s no other sensible way to catch the fish.

Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) has challenged the ban, arguing that California can’t override existing federal program for drift gillnet permitting by banning use of drift gillnets at the state level. If the lawsuit is successful, California will have to allow fishermen who obtain federal permits to continue to use drift gillnets to target swordfish and other species. However, the same environmental groups that backed the 2018 California law are taking their anti-drift gillnet case to Congress, hoping to use federal power to snuff out the swordfish fishermen.

Ill Winds Will Blow from Washington

PLF’s lawsuit is particularly important in light of the political changes coming to Washington in January. Political appointees of the Biden administration can be counted on to side with environmentalists on a host of issues, including fisheries. For that reason, PLF is also challenging other onerous federal regulations that could easily be turned against commercial fishermen by a hostile administration.

The fishermen in California are not alone. People who produce food, energy (excluding wind mills and solar panels), and other necessities of life are going to be out of favor in the Biden White House. As Bette Davis’s character said in “All About Eve,”: “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”


  • CFACT Ed

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  • Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

    Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT, where he focuses on natural resources, energy, property rights, and geopolitical developments. Articles by Dr. Cohen have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor’s Busines Daily, The New York Post, The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, The Hill, The Epoch Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Miami Herald, and dozens of other newspapers around the country. He has been interviewed on Fox News, Fox Business Network, CNN, NBC News, NPR, BBC, BBC Worldwide Television, N24 (German-language news network), and scores of radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. He has testified before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. Dr. Cohen has addressed conferences in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Bangladesh. He has a B.A. from the University of Georgia and a Ph. D. – summa cum laude – from the University of Munich.