Legislation to phase out “walls of death” passes House, heads to President’s desk
This morning the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act which outlaws destructive drift gillnets from the swordfish fishery in federal waters off California. The final push to phase out the gear has been a huge priority for CCA California and the recreational fishing community across the country.
“This is something that CCA California has been focused on for years, and it is a huge win for anglers and our marine resources,” said Bill Shedd, chairman of CCA California. “CCA members from across the nation activated and sent in thousands of messages to their elected officials urging them to pass this common-sense measure and their perseverance paid off. We are truly grateful for their efforts and proud to have been a part of the national effort to get this bill over the goal line. It is large, grassroots efforts like this that have made CCA successful for decades.”
California was the only state that still allowed a small number of commercial fishermen to use large mesh drift gillnets, which are a mile long and float along the ocean surface ensnaring anything in their path. While they “target” swordfish, more 70 different species get captured, including sportfish, marine mammals and sea turtles. Over half of the catch is discarded, much of it dead. Frustrating conservationists even more is the fact that the nets can be eliminated while also increasing the total catch of swordfish by using deep-set buoy gear that results in far less bycatch and has been developed in California since 2011.
“”This is a great way to finish a most troubling year, said Wayne Kotow, executive director CCA California. “We could not have accomplished this without all of our valuable coalition partners. We can finally see the end of this gear type that hurts the overall resources.”
The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act now heads to the President’s desk as the last piece of the puzzle to phase out the deadly gear. The Senate version of the bill was approved in July and the State of California passed similar legislation by a vote of 119-1. California state law has already initiated a transition program that will help finance the few dozen drift gillnet permit holders to move to more efficient gear, but because the activity takes place in federal waters, the federal bill was needed to close the loop and fully initiate the transition.
Photo courtesy of Paul Nicklen