On New Year’s Day, the White House released a statement intending to reverse the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, which would ban drift gill nets for commercial fisheries along California and the West Coast. Here’s the nut graph of that Trump administration decision:
“In passing S. 906, the Congress has ignored the fact that the regional fishery management process has had strong, bipartisan support since its creation. By forcing the West Coast drift gillnet fishery to use alternative gear that has not been proven to be an economically viable substitute for gillnets, the Congress is effectively terminating the fishery. As a result, an estimated 30 fishing vessels, all of which are operated by family-owned small businesses, will no longer be able to bring their bounty to shore. At a time when our Nation has a seafood trade deficit of nearly $17 billion, S. 906 will exacerbate this imbalance.”
Here’s reaction from the Coastal Conservation Association Of California:
In a move that’s sure to disappoint conservation-minded anglers, President Trump rang in the New Year by vetoing Senate Bill 906, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, which will have banned destructive drift gillnets from the last region of the country that still allows it — the federal ocean waters off California.
“I am returning, without my approval, S. 906, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act,” read a letter signed by Trump that accompanied the veto. “America’s fishermen have made great sacrifices to ensure that our Nation’s marine fisheries are a sustainable economic engine for coastal communities. Under my Administration, the number of United States fish stocks subject to overfishing is at a historic low.”
The Coastal Conservation Association of California helped lead the final push for congressional passage of S. 906, which was introduced more than two years ago in the upper house by senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), now vice president-elect. It was approved by the Senate in July 2020, and it passed the lower house last month.
“We are obviously deeply disappointed by this veto,” said Wayne Kotow, Executive Director for CCA Cal. “We will continue our efforts to get this legislation passed and get this gear type removed from our waters. We are not against commercial fishing and in fact understand how important it is to our supply chain and economics. What we are concerned with is a gear type that is harmful to the overall resource. We all need to fish cleaner and with less expired bycatch. We are trying to use more modern methods that have proven to fish cleaner.”
To help commercial fishermen replace lost income once drift gillnets are banned for good, the state of California has been actively developing an alternative method for catching swordfish with deep-set buoy gear that results in far less bycatch of marine mammals, sea turtles and non-target fish species.
The Trump administration, on the other hand, remains skeptical of the economic viability of deep-set buoy gear for commercial fishing.
“By forcing the West Coast drift gillnet fishery to use alternative gear that has not been proven to be an economically viable substitute for gillnets, the Congress is effectively terminating the fishery. As a result, an estimated 30 fishing vessels, all of which are operated by family-owned small businesses, will no longer be able to bring their bounty to shore. At a time when our Nation has a seafood trade deficit of nearly $17 billion, S. 906 will exacerbate this imbalance.”
The Coastal Conservation Association of California (CCA CAL) was created in 2015 when recreational anglers and outdoor enthusiasts came together to work for the conservation and enhancement of our marine resources and coastal environments.
Today, we are working to protect not only the health, habitat and sustainability of our marine resources, but also the interests of recreational saltwater anglers. Our goal is to protect your access to the marine resources you cherish and enjoy everyday. CCA CAL consists of 2,300 members spread across 6 local chapters in Southern California.
The Turtle Island Restoration Network also commented on the decision::
The West Coast driftnet fishery is the only one remaining in the United States for good reason — this antiquated fishing method catches and kills marine animals in horrifying amounts. In addition to potentially saving the Pacific leatherback sea turtle from extinction, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act would have provided funds for fishers to transition to more sustainable fishing methods with less bycatch of non-target species.
If Trump’s veto is allowed to stand, innocent marine animals — like whales, dolphins, fish, and sharks — will continue to be captured, injured, and even killed with little-to-no environmental review, public input, or analysis of long-term impacts on the environment, our economy, or the people who live near this habitat.
Make no mistake: this decision is a clear attempt to put politics above common-sense wins for wildlife and for fishers.