Driftnets: Bipartisan legislation deserves to become law

For decades, Americans have understood there is a great deal of work to do to both clean up and make our oceans safer for marine creatures. A great deal of progress has been made, but some industries have clung to outdated methods. It is encouraging, then, that Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., has teamed up with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to rid the West Coast of one such method. The two have reintroduced the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, which would phase out the use of large mesh driftnets off the coast of California.

Driftnets are for catching swordfish and thresher sharks. The problem is they also catch dolphins, porpoises, sea turtles, whales … plenty of other things that become collateral damage.

Capito and Feinstein tried last year to do something about the nets. In fact, the bill was passed unanimously by the Senate and passed by the House shortly thereafter. President Donald Trump vetoed it, however.

“Now that we have a new administration, I’m hopeful that Congress will quickly pass our bill and we can begin to phase driftnets out,” Feinstein said.

Capito is hopeful as well.

“I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation that will help ensure large mesh driftnets are no longer used in any U.S. waters, protecting our marine wildlife from this harmful practice,” she said.

Representing a state that is facing its own challenge in diversifying its economy and doing right for the environment without sacrificing its workers and families, Capito is likely also proud of the bill’s effort to avoid hurting those who are still using the nets. Implementing a plan and timeline for phase out is essential.

“It’s time to transition the industry to more efficient, sustainable and profitable methods,” Feinstein said.

“We applaud the leadership of Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Shelley Moore Capito to ensure America’s oceans are free of large-mesh drift gillnets and much safer for wildlife while keeping fishermen on the water fishing,” said Susan Murray, deputy vice president for the U.S. Pacific for Oceana.

We join them in congratulating the pair on their effort.


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