“The impact of these drift nets is absolutely disastrous,” says Vanya Vulperhorst, campaign director of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing at Oceana Europe, a conservation non-profit that has investigated illegal drift net fishing across the Mediterranean. “They are indiscriminate in what they trap, and the result is that endangered and protected species are being killed in large numbers.”
BY ZACK BUDRYK – 01/01/21 05:31 PM EST
“By forcing the West Coast drift gillnet fishery to use alternative gear that has not been proven to be an economically viable substitute for gillnets, the Congress is effectively terminating the fishery,” the president said in a statement. “As a result, an estimated 30 fishing vessels, all of which are operated by family-owned small businesses, will no longer be able to bring their bounty to shore.”
The measure passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support last month. It was authored in the Senate by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and by Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) in the House. The measure passed the House 283-105 and cleared the Senate by voice vote.
“The recreational fishing and boating community has long advocated for transitioning away from large-mesh drift gillnets which needlessly kill non-target species including sportfish,” Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, said in a statement at the time. “Today marks a significant victory for marine conservation, and we are grateful for the bipartisan effort to get the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act across the finish line.”
Proponents of the measure will have to wait until the new Congress because there is no time left in this session to overturn Trump’s veto. Feinstein has indicated she will press again for the legislation during the incoming Biden adminstration.
The veto comes the same day that Congress overrode Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, the first such override of his presidency. The Republican Senate voted 81-13 to override the veto Friday, days after the House voted to override it 322-87.
The president had demanded the massive annual defense policy bill include a repeal of Section 230, the regulation that shields tech companies from civil liability, as well as the removal of a requirement that the Pentagon remove Confederate names from military installations.
This article was updated Jan. 2 at 10:35 a.m.
Last month Carmelo Isgrò received a phone call from the Italian coastguard. A 24ft sperm whale had been found thrashing about in the waters north of Sicily, desperately trying to escape a vast illegal drift net. “They asked me to help cut it loose because I have a lot of experience with these kinds of nets,” says Isgrò, a marine biologist and director of the Museum of the Sea in the Sicilian town of Milazzo. “So I got a very big knife and went straight away.”
Isgrò was among a team of divers who tried for 48 hours to free the agitated female whale, as the miles-long trap gradually sliced further into her thick skin. “It was a very difficult operation because the whale was so powerful, and if you are struck by its tail you could be killed,” says Isgrò. The team were able to remove parts of the netting, but the whale, whose tail was still tangled up, dived deep into the ocean and they lost track.