US Senate News:
Source: United States Senator for West Virginia Shelley Moore Capito
WASHINGON, D.C. – The Senate yesterday unanimously passed the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The bill would phase out harmful large mesh drift gillnets used in federal waters off the coast of California – the only place the nets are still used in the United States.
Large mesh drift gillnets, which are between a mile and a mile-and-a-half long and can extend 200 feet below the ocean surface, are left in the ocean overnight to catch swordfish and thresher sharks. However, at least 60 other marine species, including whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, fish and sharks, can also become entangled in the large mesh net “walls,” injuring or killing them. Most of these animals, referred to as bycatch, are then discarded.
“While the use of large mesh drift gillnets is already prohibited off the coasts of most states, these tools are still injuring or killing a whole host of marine animals off California’s coast,” said Senator Capito. “These driftnets are left in the ocean overnight to catch swordfish and thresher sharks. However, at least 60 other marine species, such as seals and turtles, can also become entangled in these nets, injuring or killing them. I’m thrilled this legislation has now passed the Senate and look forward to the president signing this into law.”
The bill would phase out the use of the nets and help the industry transition to more sustainable methods like deep-set buoy gear that uses a hook-and-buoy system. Deep-set buoy gear attracts swordfish with bait and alerts fishermen immediately when a bite is detected. Testing has shown that as much as 98 percent of animals caught with deep-set buoys are actually swordfish, resulting in far less bycatch than large mesh drift gillnets, which average a 50 percent catch rate of target species.