Government Funding Omnibus Bill Includes California Driftnet Modernization Legislation

On December 19, 2022, Congress released its end-of-year spending bill, popularly known as the omnibus, to keep the US government funded through most of 2023. The American Gamefishing Association ( ASA) is pleased to announce that the bill includes the Bycatch Reduction and Driftnet Modernization Act, which aligns state and federal policies to modernize the California swordfish fishery. The legislation was previously passed during the 116th Congress, but was vetoed by former President Trump on January 1, 2021.

“After years of hard work and countless unexpected obstacles, it is a relief to see the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act so close to being enacted,” said ASA Vice President of Government Affairs Mike Leonard. “The removal of large mesh driftnets, which have been banned throughout the rest of the US except coastal California, is long overdue and will provide significant benefits to West Coast Fisheries.

The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act would phase out the use of large-mesh driftnets and help commercial fishermen transition to more sustainable and economically viable gear, such as deep buoys. Large mesh driftnets are left in the water for long periods of time, usually overnight, in the hope of catching swordfish. Unfortunately, valuable sport fish species, as well as marine mammals, sea turtles, and sharks, get caught in the nets. Much of this marine life is dead and discarded.

“Transitioning this fishery to deep buoy gear will conserve important sport fish and other marine life,” Leonard added. “Our thanks to all of the bill’s sponsors and other congressional champions for including this on the omnibus, particularly Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Shelly Moore Capito (RW.V.), Maria Cantwell ( D-Wash.), Roger Wicker, (R-Miss.), Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.).”

The bill also includes an unrelated provision to authorize a market-based mechanism that allows for the transfer of Alaska halibut quotas from the commercial fishing sector to the charter fishing sector. This provision has been championed by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and is supported by the ASA, as well as by much of the Alaskan fishing community.

The General Government Funding Bill is a $1.7 trillion package that funds federal agencies and includes a variety of other policy proposals and legislation previously introduced as stand-alone bills. Congress must approve the bus by Friday, December 23, to avoid a lapse in government funding. The first vote on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday, December 20 in the United States Senate. ASA looks forward to seeing the debate on this legislation unfold and to see the Bycatch Reduction and Driftnet Modernization Act finally become law.

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The American Sport Fishing Association (ASA) is the trade association for the sport fishing industry committed to representing the interests of the sport fishing and boating industries, as well as the entire sport fishing community. We provide the industry and anglers with a unified voice when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect the sport fishing business or sport fishing itself. ASA invests in companies for the long term to ensure the industry remains strong and prosperous, as well as to safeguard and promote the enduring economic, conservation, and social values ​​of America’s sport fishing. ASA also gives America’s 55 million fishermen a voice in political decisions that affect their ability to fish sustainably in our nation’s waterways through Keep America Fishing, our national fisherman advocacy campaign. America’s fishermen generate more than $50 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating jobs for 825,000 people.