February 16, 2021

Bill to Remove Harmful Gillnets Reintroduced

On February 8, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Senator Shelley Moore Capito reintroduced the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act in the 117th Congress. While the bill passed in the final hours of the previous Congress, it was vetoed by former President Trump in early January.

The bill seeks to phase out the use of indiscriminate and wasteful large-mesh drift gillnets used in the swordfish fishery off the coast of California over a five-year period. Drift gillnets catch fish by entangling their fins and gills in the mesh as they try to swim through the net. However, they also entangle marine mammals and sea turtles. Other, more targeted gear, such as deep-set buoy gear, are more effective at specifically targeting swordfish and other commercially harvested species without the excessive bycatch and dead discards that result from the gillnet fishery. The new federal law will complement a California state law passed in 2018 set to revoke state permits for the use of drift gillnets in 2024 and provides fishermen with financial assistance to switch to cleaner fishing gear.

The bill also includes an unrelated provision that will benefit Alaska’s halibut charter fishery. The Recreational Quota Entity (RQE) program authorizes a market-based mechanism to transfer Alaska halibut quota shares from the commercial fishing sector to the charter fishing sector. This provision is the last step in setting up this program to provide Alaska’s sportfishing fleet with additional access and fishing opportunities for charter boat anglers.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has been an active supporter of the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, and we will continue to support the effort in the 117th Congress.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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