Policy Watch

On June 6, 2018, Reps. Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) introduced the bipartisan Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, which would phase out the use of large mesh drift gillnets off the coast of California and set a path toward more sustainable fishing in the region. The measure is the House companion to S.2773, which was introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). This week was Capitol Hill Ocean Week, which each year brings together leaders in marine policy to discuss critical issues impacting oceans and Great Lakes.

Currently, the use of gillnets with a total length of two and one-half kilometers or more is prohibited in U.S. waters. The drift gillnet fishing gear being utilized off the coast of California can be up to or more than a mile long in length, and is designed to catch swordfish and thresher sharks. However, due to its large mesh size, many marine species—including some ESA-listed species—can also become entangled in the mesh nets as a result of bycatch. Many animals are injured or killed in the process.

The nation’s recreational fishing community is comprised of millions of individuals and thousands of businesses with a deep passion for aquatic resource conservation. As such, the American Sportfishing Association strongly supports H.R. 5638, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, which will end the use of highly destructive large-mesh drift gillnets. In California, this gear is responsible for unacceptably high levels of bycatch, including of sportfish, sharks and marine mammals, and we commend Rep. Lieu for leading this effort to improve the health and sustainability of California’s marine resources.

For more information, please contact Conservation Director, Mike Leonard.