Trump vetoes bipartisan effort to protect sea life off the California coast

Credit: Mark Conlin/VWPics via AP Images

President Trump has vetoed a bipartisan measure to protect vulnerable ocean species in federal waters off the coast of California by gradually eliminating large-scale drift nets, also known as gill nets.

Drift nets in federal waters—which can stretch 1.5 miles long, a mile wide, and up to 50 feet deep—are designed to ensnare fish by their gills. The nets typically target swordfish but they snag way more than that—often sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and even birds. Fishing crews typically toss this bycatch—dead—back into the sea.

These indiscriminate and unnecessary killings are such a clear danger to the health of marine ecosystems that Democrats and Republicans agree that drift net fishing has to stop. Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Shelley Moore Capito coauthored legislation in the Senate that would, among other things, phase out the massive nets and promote alternate fishing practices. The Senate bill was so popular that it passed in July by a voice vote. In the House last month, 56 Republicans and one Independent joined 226 Democrats to ensure the bill’s passage.

But President Trump vetoed the overwhelmingly popular legislation, arguing that it wasn’t fair to the 30-some fishing vessels still using drift nets. At no point did the president acknowledge the fact that the bill grants the companies five years to transition to newer technologies and provides federal assistance to help them do so. Trump falsely claimed that the bipartisan legislation was “effectively terminating the fishery,” when, in fact, it was banning a single fishing technique and paving the way for more sustainable methods.

Senator Feinstein has signaled her intent to bring the bill back to the floor when the new Congress convenes later this month.

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