U.S. Rep. Jared Golden wants the U.S. government to drop an “unnecessary” mask mandate for commercial fishermen.
In a letter dated June 2, Golden told U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and Adm. Karl Schultz of the U.S. Coast Guard that his office has fielded numerous complaints about Maine fishermen being stopped and warned for not wearing masks aboard their boats.
That comes only weeks after the CDC largely lifted its indoor mask guidance for Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a move that Gov. Janet Mills mirrored by ending Maine’s indoor mask mandate on May 24.
While mask wearing has been relaxed under most circumstances, an executive order from Democratic President Joe Biden still requires masks at transportation hubs and aboard most forms of public transportation, including “maritime vessels,” such as ferries. That has been interpreted to include commercial fishing boats.
“It is hard to understand why the agencies have interpreted this executive order to cover commercial maritime vessels that are not open to the general public,” Golden, a Democrat representing Maine’s 2nd District, said in the letter.
To that end, Golden asked that small commercial fishing boats be exempted from this requirement.
Golden said that easing the “unnecessary compliance burden” would free up Coast Guard resources and assure fishermen that CDC health mandates are “science-driven and necessary.”
He said that most commercial fishing vessels should be “safe” for fully vaccinated fishermen to work without masks.
“This is particularly true for the lobster boats common on Maine’s coast, where a captain works alone or with a small number of crew in the open air to set and pull traps,” Golden said.
Ginny Olsen, an executive board member of the Maine Lobstering Union, called the mask mandate for fishermen “extremely unfair.”
“Maine fishermen work tirelessly to keep each other safe — whether that’s on the water or in the community and that has been especially true during the pandemic,” Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, said Thursday. “Fishing boats are not cruise ships and all the best science suggests that it’s safe for these small crews to go fishing in the open air without masks. The requirement for fishermen to wear masks is outdated and enforcing that policy is a waste of resources for both the fishermen and the government, and I’m glad to see Congressman Golden pushing back on this policy.”