Sea turtles, whales, and dolphins may soon be free of the deadly possibility that they will get entangled in the huge driftnets floating off the coast of California.
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a bipartisan bill to phase out the use of the harmful mesh gillnets in federal waters there—the only place the nets are still used in the United States.
The mesh driftnets, which are more than a mile long, are left in the ocean overnight to catch swordfish and thresher sharks. 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.
Turtle Island Restoration Network has led a coalition of concerned citizens and partner organizations for nearly 20 years, working to stop the devastating impact of this driftnet fishery on sea turtles and other ocean animals—with much success.
In 2018, California passed a four-year phase out of large mesh drift gillnets in state waters, but the new law, The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, would extend similar protections to federal waters within five years and authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help the commercial fishing industry transition to more sustainable gear types.
“This legislation will ensure no more whales or dolphins fall victim,” said Annalisa Batanides Tuel, policy and advocacy manager for Turtle Island Restoration Network. “We are encouraged that the United States is taking steps to address harmful fishing methods in the ocean and off our coasts.”