President Trump vetoed the bi-partisan Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act (S. 906/H.R. 9179), led by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Representatives Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) that would have ended the use of large mesh drift gillnets in U.S. waters.
The mile-long nets drift overnight to catch swordfish, but often entangle, injure and kill more than 70 other species of marine life. According to federal data, more dolphins and porpoises are killed in the California drift gillnet fishery than all other observed U.S. West Coast and Alaska fisheries combined.
The federal legislation would have prohibited the use of large mesh drift gillnets in United States federal waters (out to 200 miles from shore) in five years and promoted the adoption of cleaner fishing gear that reduces the incidental catch of marine wildlife.
The bill would also have authorized the federal government to provide additional funding to fishermen for the transition to use cleaner fishing gear, namely deep-set buoy gear. Deep set-buoy gear uses hooks set during the daytime where they selectively catch swordfish and are actively checked by fishermen, as opposed to a large net left unattended for hours like a drift gillnet.
This not only greatly reduces the risk of accidental catching and killing of wildlife but also leads to higher quality swordfish that can be worth nearly twice as much as swordfish caught in drift gillnets. Conversely, drift gillnets throw overboard more wildlife than what is kept and due to their wasteful nature, these nets are banned in many places around the world. Ocean waters off California and Oregon are the last place in the U.S. where large mesh drift gillnets are still allowed.
Oceana has campaigned for more than a decade to end the use of destructive drift gillnets, and in response to the President’s veto message released the following statement from Susan Murray, deputy vice president for the U.S. Pacific:
“We thank the leadership of Senators Dianne Feinstein and Shelley Moore Capito and Representatives Ted Lieu and Brian Fitzpatrick as well as so many others who helped pass this legislation through Congress. Over the years, tens of thousands of U.S. residents have called for these drift gillnets to be permanently pulled from ocean waters to protect wildlife; and sportfishermen, businesses, chefs, and state and federal officials have fervently supported such action. It’s been a long road, but we will continue to fight until America’s oceans are free of large mesh drift gillnets and much safer for wildlife.”