Good News! The U.S. Government Has Banned the Deadliest Fishing Driftnets

The U.S. government has officially banned the deadliest driftnets! 

In December of last year, President Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act. Included in the legislation is a ban on the cruelest driftnets! Initially introduced by Senator Feinstein and Representative Lieu, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act requires a five-year phaseout on the use of “large-mesh” driftnets in federal waters and by U.S. vessels. These massive nets can be a mile to a mile-and-a-half long and extend 200 feet below the ocean surface. 

While intended to capture swordfish and thresher sharks, countless larger marine animals also fall prey to the gaping holes in the nets. Referred to as “bycatch” by the fishing industry, animals who are unintentionally caught are usually tossed back into the ocean, often dead or too injured to survive. At least 60 other marine species are commonly entangled in the enormous net walls, including whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, fish, and other sharks. In a statement, Senator Feinstein said:

Large mesh drift gillnets kill indiscriminately, leaving a trail of dead or injured marine life behind. We must be better stewards of our oceans and fisheries.

The United States joins the United Nations and several other countries in prohibiting this type of commercial fishing. States including California, Oregon, Washington, and East Coast states have also banned large-mesh driftnets. 

In 2018, Mercy For Animals teamed up with advocacy organizations Turtle Island Restoration Network, SeaLegacy, and Sharkwater to expose the reality of driftnets. Our undercover investigations revealed sharks and stingrays cut apart while still alive, sea lions and seabirds trapped and killed in driftnets, entangled dolphins cut loose and stabbed so they would sink, fish suffocating slowly in nets, and sharks still alive and gasping as their tails and fins were hacked off. 

Shortly after the release of our investigation, California passed a bill to phase out large-mesh driftnets in state waters. Today, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act will take this protection even further by extending it to federal waters within five years. 

Please consider supporting our vital work so we can continue to send brave investigators into the field to expose horrific cruelty like this, pressure food companies to do better for animals, and help pass legislation that better protects farmed animals, both on land and in the sea.