Congress recently passed a bipartisan bill intended to modernize off-shore commercial fishing by phasing out a particular method of using large nets, which often capture marine species other than those being targeted by fishing boats.
When it reached President Donald Trump’s desk, however, he vetoed the measure, citing several factors he believes would be exacerbated if it were implemented.
Background on the bill
According to the Daily Caller, the president expressed concerns that the law would put family-owned fishing companies out of business, increase the U.S. deficit in terms of imported seafood, and fail to meet the anticipated conservation goals.
The bill in question was first introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) and in the House of Representatives by Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). Known as the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, the measure passed in early December with support from a majority of both parties in each chamber of Congress.
The large-mesh gillnets used in federal waters off the coast of California typically measure up to 1.5 miles wide and range as deep as 200 feet below the ocean’s surface, where they are often left overnight to catch sharks and swordfish, according to the Associated Press.
Of course, dozens of other species — including dolphins, whales, seals, and sea turtles — can get caught, injured, or killed as a result.
Such nets are already banned in federal waters off the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as off the coasts of Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and Hawaii. They have also been banned in state waters off California’s coast, but this bill would have extended the ban to areas under federal control over a five-year period.
Reasons for Trump’s veto
Trump announced his veto in a message on Friday, arguing that the proposed action lacked a viable and economically feasible alternative method.
Accusing Congress of “effectively terminating the fishery,” Trump’s move came in anticipation of “an estimated 30 fishing vessels, all of which are operated by family-owned small businesses” that would “no longer be able to bring their bounty to shore.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. currently has a $17 billion trade deficit for seafood, which Trump claimed would grow larger if he signed the bill into law.
He also argued that the intended conservation goals would not be reached since “West Coast drift gillnet fishery is subject to robust legal and regulatory requirements for environmental protection that equal or exceed the environmental protections that apply to foreign fisheries.”
Given the short time frame remaining for the current legislative session, there will not be an opportunity for the House and Senate to override Trump’s veto, according to The Hill.