Trump vetoes driftnet bill; Feinstein plans to refile

Published on
January 4, 2021

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday, 1 January, vetoed a bill that would have banned the use of driftnets in federal waters off the California coast.

The move means lawmakers will need to start efforts anew to pass legislation that mirrors what California lawmakers passed in 2018, as a new U.S. Congress was sworn into office on Sunday, 3 January.

In rejecting Senate Bill 906, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, Trump said his administration has done more than any other to promote American seafood interests and claimed the bill would put about 30 family-owned fishing companies out of business.

He also noted the seafood trade deficit, currently at about USD 17 billion (EUR 13.9 billion), as a reason for vetoing the legislation.

“Without this fishery, Americans will import more swordfish and other species from foreign sources that frequently have more bycatch than our own fisheries,” Trump said in a statement. “If the Congress wants to address bycatch, it should insist on a level playing field for imported seafood instead of crushing American fishing families.”

The bill, which passed the Senate by a voice vote and in the House by a 283-105 margin, would end permits for drift gillnets used for swordfishing in the Pacific. Environmental advocates claim the nets, which are only used in the swordfish fishery, cause injuries and fatalities in several endangered species.

Todd Steiner, the executive director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network, said in a statement his group would do what it could to either push lawmakers to override the veto or get the bill reintroduced.

“This bill would have phased out this deadly method and provided funds for fishers to transition to fishing methods with less bycatch of non-target species,” he said. “Once again, politics has outweighed common sense wins for wildlife and fishers, but the fight is far from over, and you won’t see the last of TIRN’s involvement in this issue.” 

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who co-sponsored the bill with U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), called Trump’s action reckless. She said the overwhelming support the bill received in both chambers will lead her to refile the bill.

“There is not enough time to override the veto so I will reintroduce this bill on the first day of the new Congress and will push for quick enactment once President[-elect Joe] Biden is in office,” she said.

Last year, Oceana provided USD 1 million (EUR 817,000) to California’s net buyback program. The initiative was part of the 2018 law that calls for the elimination of the nets by 31 January, 2024.  

Photo courtesy of Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock

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