March 29, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – TodayCongressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), both Members of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, reintroduced the bipartisan Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, which would phase out the use of large mesh drift gillnets off the coast of California and set a path toward more sustainable fishing in the region. 

Upon introduction, Rep. Lieu said:

“Drift gillnet fishing is an unsustainable, unnecessary method of catching swordfish and sharks. Taking care of our oceans by stopping this harmful practice will be essential if we want to mitigate and reverse damage to critical marine ecosystems. California has already taken an important step in banning drift net fishing in state waters, and it’s time for the Federal government to follow suit.”

Additional Background:

Currently, the use of gillnets with a total length of two and one-half kilometers or more is prohibited in U.S. waters. The drift gillnet fishing gear being utilized off the coast of California can be up to or more than a mile long in length, and is designed to catch swordfish and thresher sharks. However, due to its large mesh size, many marine species—including some ESA-listed species—can also become entangled in the mesh nets as a result of bycatch. Many animals are injured or killed in the process.

Congressman Lieu is a member of the ESA working group. 

Support for H.R. 1979:

Animal Welfare Institute:

“AWI thanks Reps. Lieu and Fitzpatrick for reintroducing the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act (H.R. 1979) and for their continued bipartisan work to protect marine mammals along the nation’s longest coast,” said Nancy Blaney, director of government affairs at the Animal Welfare Institute. “The sustained use of large-mesh driftnets has led to exorbitant amounts of bycatch and places marine mammals, some even listed under the ESA, in grave danger. H.R. 1979 extends state protections against these driftnets into federal waters would finally remove this threat to marine mammals along California’s coastline.”


“Targeting swordfish with drift gillnets is an indiscriminate and highly destructive way to fish,” said Oceana’s deputy vice president of the Pacific, Susan Murray. “This fishery tosses overboard more marine life than it keeps. With cleaner, more selective fishing gears available, there is no reason to continue using antiquated methods that inflict unnecessary harm to ocean wildlife.”

Humane Society Legislative Fund:

“Each year, the fishing industry’s drift gillnets ensnare and drown countless majestic creatures. H.R. 1979 promises to reduce these horrible and indiscriminate deaths along one of the longest state coastlines in the nation,” stated Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “We applaud Reps. Ted Lieu and Brian Fitzpatrick for introducing legislation to protect dolphins and whales in their natural habitats.”

Pew Charitable Trusts:

“I hope that this commonsense and bipartisan bill passes, and provides the momentum needed to end the use of drift gillnets,” said Paul Shively, project director of Pacific Ocean conservation for the Pew Charitable Trusts. “It’s the best way of preserving the viable commercial swordfishing industry without unnecessary harm to the marine wildlife that is integral to a healthy Pacific Ocean ecosystem.”

Turtle Island Restoration Network:

"Driftnets meant for swordfish and thresher sharks off the coast of California are actually harming and killing more than 70 different species of ocean wildlife," said Todd Steiner, executive director with Turtle Island Restoration Network. "This legislation would be the final nail in the coffin for eliminating this antiquated and unsustainable fishing technology."

Friends of the Earth:

“It is time to ban the unsustainable and unpopular practice of driftnet fishing,” said Marcie Keever, director of the oceans and vessels program at Friends of the Earth. “These massive nets catch and kill an unforgivable amount of marine life and are so cruel that only a single California fishery still utilizes them. Modern fishing practices must become the industry standard and this bill is a necessary step toward that.”

American Sportfishing Association:

“The nation’s recreational fishing community is comprised of millions of individuals and thousands of businesses with a deep passion for aquatic resource conservation,” said Danielle Cloutier, Pacific Fisheries Policy Director at the American Sportfishing Association. “As such, the American Sportfishing Association strongly supports H.R. 1979, the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, which will end the use of highly destructive large-mesh drift gillnets. In California, this gear is responsible for unacceptably high levels of bycatch, including of sportfish, sharks and marine mammals, and we commend Rep. Lieu for leading this effort to improve the health and sustainability of California’s marine resources.” 

Endangered Species Coalition:

“We thank Congressmen Lieu and Fitzpatrick for introducing this important legislation to stop animals from suffering,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director, Endangered Species Coalition. “A federal ban on these drift gillnets will save endangered species including leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles, sperm whales and other imperiled wildlife. Anyone who has seen film of animals trapped in these nets know how heart wrenching it is. We look forward to seeing this bill become law.”

International Fund for Animal Welfare:

“Reducing incidental bycatch of marine mammals in commercial fisheries should always be a top priority to ensure a vibrant and healthy marine ecosystem”, said CT Harry, Marine Campaigner for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. This bipartisan bill (H.R. 1979), championed by Congressmen Lieu and Fitzpatrick, will eliminate the unnecessary use of drift gillnets in favor of more sustainable fishing practices.

Defenders of Wildlife:

“H.R. 1979 is a huge step forward in the fight for sustainable fishing practices in California. Drift gillnet fishing has wreaked havoc on dozens of marine wildlife species, including marine mammals, sea turtles and sharks. It’s time to put an end to this wasteful and deadly practice.” 


“This bill recognizes that Americans don’t want seafood that comes with a heaping side of dead dolphins, turtles, and sharks,” said Earthjustice Andrea Treece staff attorney. “We applaud Rep. Lieu for protecting and respecting the wondrous critters with whom we share the ocean, while encouraging innovation to develop more sustainable fishing methods.”