Today, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation passed the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act—legislation re-introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to phase out the use of indiscriminate driftnets that target swordfish off the coast of California. Representatives Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced companion legislation in the House as well.
“We appreciate the leadership shown by Senators Feinstein and Capito and Representatives Lieu and Fitzpatrick to protect whales, turtles, sea lions, sharks and many other sea creatures from needlessly drowning in drift gillnets off California’s coast,” said Susan Murray, Oceana’s deputy vice president, US Pacific.
The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act would establish a 5-year transition program to phase out mile-long drift gillnets and adopt alternative fishing practices to minimize the incidental catch of other marine wildlife—like whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. Participating fishermen would be compensated via grants to transition to more sustainable fishing gear, including compensation for turning in their drift gillnet permits and nets. The bill would authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help with that transition.
The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act is complementary to similar legislation—California Senate Bill 1017—that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law in September 2018. The federal bill provides additional resources for the transition program and would amend the federal fisheries management law—the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act—to phase out federal permits.
“Targeting swordfish with drift gillnets is an indiscriminate and highly destructive way to fish,” said Murray. “This fishery tosses overboard more marine life than it keeps. With cleaner, more selective fishing gears available, there is no reason to continue using antiquated methods that inflict unnecessary harm to ocean wildlife.”
For more information about swordfish drift gillnets and gear alternatives visit www.oceana.org/stopthenets
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 200 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit www.oceana.org to learn more.