Update: You might have heard that the federal legislation to end the use of drift gillnets in US waters received a Presidential Veto on New Year’s Day. But, Senator Feinstein, the lead sponsor of the legislation, has promised to have the final word and reintroduce this legislation on the first day of the new Congress! Thanks Senator Feinstein for fighting to protect the future of fishing!
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation ending the use of large mesh drift gillnets in California, the last place in the U.S. where this gear is used. The Senate passed the bill unanimously in July, and now it heads to the President’s desk for his signature.
Wild Oceans has been fighting for over 35 years to end the use of this destructive gear. A 1985 edition of our newsletter (formerly titled “The National Coalition for Marine Conservation Marine Bulletin”) cited the need for Congress to take strong action against unattended gillnets that result in the wasteful killing of target and non-target species, and the incidental entrapment of game fish, marine mammals, turtles and other sea life. Needless to say, it’s been a long fight.
The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act complements a 2018 California state law, which revokes state drift gillnet permits in 2024 and provides the few dozen current drift gillnet fishermen with financial assistance to switch to cleaner fishing gears. Commercial fishermen participating in the state transition program will be first in line for the opportunity to fish with innovative, selective swordfish gear known as deep-set buoy gear.
We are grateful for the enduring support of our Wild Oceans members who understand that we have a moral obligation to share the ocean with recreational fishermen, divers, whale watchers, surfers, commercial fishermen and others. Together, we are working to preserve a healthy ocean as a gift to our children and our children’s children. The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act recognizes that commercial fishermen play a vital role in sustaining a healthy ocean community and provides them with a path forward to switch to cleaner swordfish gear.