The bi-partisan Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act was introduced again in the Senate, led by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) to end the use of large-mesh drift gillnets in U.S. ocean waters. These mile-long, nearly invisible nets drift overnight to catch swordfish off California, but entangle, injure and kill more than 70 other species of marine life. Companion legislation (H.R. 404) was introduced in the House last month by Representatives Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).
The federal legislation will prohibit the use of large mesh drift gillnets in United States federal waters (out to 200 miles from shore) in five years and promote the adoption of cleaner fishing gear that reduces the incidental catch of marine wildlife.
California recently established a transition program where fishermen can receive funding for turning in their nets and permits. The federal legislation authorizes the federal government to provide additional funding to fishermen to facilitate this transition to cleaner methods, namely deep-set buoy gear.
Congress passed similar legislation last year by unanimous consent of the Senate and a bi-partisan majority of the House of Representatives; however, President Trump vetoed the bill in the final hours of the Congressional session.
In response to the bill introduction, Oceana released the following statement from Susan Murray, deputy vice president for the U.S. Pacific:
“We applaud the leadership of Senators Dianne Feinstein and Shelley Moore Capito to ensure America’s oceans are free of large-mesh drift gillnets and much safer for wildlife while keeping fishermen on the water fishing. The fact that many drift gillnet fishermen are already voluntarily choosing to fish with deep-set buoy gear is further evidence it is an economically viable alternative. Promoting this innovative solution will increase our domestic supply of sustainable seafood benefiting local West Coast fishermen and communities.”