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Federal Legislation Outlawing Drift Gillnets Heads to the President’s Desk

Senate Bill 906 passes in the House of Representatives.

December 10, 2020
Turtle caught in a net
Drift gill nets measure a mile long and float along the ocean surface, ensnaring sea turtles, marine mammals and many species of fish. Courtesy NOAA

This U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed S.906, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, which outlaws destructive drift gillnets from the last region of the country that still allows it—the federal ocean waters off California. The bill now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

The Coastal Conservation Association of California helped lead the final push for passage of S.906, which was introduced more than two years 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.

“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 Cal. “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.”

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Interestingly, 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, indiscriminately ensnaring any creatures in their path. Though intended to catch swordfish, the nets have been known to ensnare more than 70 different species, including marine mammals and sea turtles, as well as fish. Over half of the catch is discarded, much of it dead.

Read Next: Bill to Ban California Driftnets Hits the Senate Floor

To help commercial fishermen replace lost income, 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.

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This is a great way to finish a most troubling year,” said Wayne Kotow, executive director CCA Cal. “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.”

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