US bans drift gillnets that injure marine animals

The large gillnets will no longer hurt marine animals indiscriminately. On July 23, 2020, the United States Senate…
marine animals

The large gillnets will no longer hurt marine animals indiscriminately.

On July 23, 2020, the United States Senate passed a new bill unanimously: the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act. The goal of the bill is to stop the use of “large mesh gillnets utilized in the federal waters off the coast of California, the only place the nets are still used in the United States.”

These gillnets are huge—upwards of a mile in length—and they also have a huge impact. They end up catching a lot more than intended:

Other marine species including whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, fish, and sharks can also become entangled in the large mesh nets, injuring or killing them. Most of these animals, referred to as bycatch, are then discarded.

Turtle Island Restoration Network

For almost 20 years, people have been campaigning against the use of these gillnets. In particular, the Turtle Island Restoration Network has been working hard to get the government to stop these harmful fishing tactics.

A four-year plan to “phase out” these gillnets passed in California in 2019. Now, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act will continue the phase out on a federal level. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will aid the fishing industry in adapting with equipment that is sustainable.

For example, the hook-and-buoy system is a more sustainable system that catches swordfish. Of all animals caught with this system, 94% of them are swordfish.

Annalisa Batanides Tuel is the policy and advocacy manager at Turtle Island Restoration Network. She suggested that this new development is especially important because of biodiversity concerns:

Drift gillnets are responsible for trapping and killing more than 60 different species of marine wildlife, and this legislation will ensure no more whales or dolphins fall victim to this unsustainable fishery. We are encouraged that the United States is taking steps to address harmful fishing methods in the ocean and off our coasts, as a major cause of biodiversity collapse.

Annalisa Batanides Tuel

“We are now one step closer to removing these nets from our waters,” says Senator Dianne Feinstein. Senator Feinstein introduced the bill along with Senator Shelley Moore Capito.

Article source: Turtle Island Restoration Network

Featured image source: Turtle Island Restoration Network

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