President says passage of the law would have increased seafood imports
President Donald Trump on Friday vetoed a bill that would have gradually ended the use of large-mesh driftnets, which are only used in federal waters off the California coast.
The president said the initiative would have increased reliance on imported seafood and increased the multi-billion-dollar seafood trade deficit.
In his veto comments sent to the Senate, Trump noted that the bill, which passed under the initiative of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and her Republican colleague Shelley Moore Capito, “would not result in the stated conservation benefits.”
Initiators of the bill noted that large-mesh drift nets, which range from 1.6 to 2.4 kilometers in length and go down to a depth of 60 meters, are set overnight to catch swordfish and fox sharks.
However, according to the initiators of the bill, at least 60 other species, including whales, dolphins, and sea lions are entangled in the nets, causing injury or death.
Such nets are prohibited in the territorial waters of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii. They are, however, permitted in federal waters off the coast of California.
In 2018, California approved a four-year phase-in plan to ban such nets in state waters to protect marine life.
The bill vetoed by Trump would have extended similar protections to federal waters off California for five years and would have authorized the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help the fishing industry switch to greener types of gear.
Trump said driftnet fishing is “subject to stringent regulatory requirements,” comparable to or even more stringent than the environmental protections applied to foreign fisheries.
Without such fishing, he said, America would have to increase imports of swordfish and other ocean fish.