BY BENJAMIN DUBOW
Seemingly overshadowed by a new lawsuit against the president, a dismal approving rating, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions denying Russian collusion in the 2016 election, the Trump administration ditched a rule on Mondayaimed at protecting endangered whales and sea turtles on the West Coastfrom mile-long gill nets meant to catch swordfish.
TheNational Marine Fisheries Services ruling is one of the administrations first moves intargetingprotections ofthreatened species, the Associated Press reported.Gill net fishing is banned in most of the worlds high seas. That includesthe U.S., with the exception of the West Coast swordfish drift gill net fishery.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council proposed the rule in 2015 with the support of conservationists, regulators, and fishermen. Meant to protect whales, dolphins, and turtles that live in the waters off the West Coast, therule would have closed gill net fisheries for up to two years if a certain numberof whales, turtles, or dolphins were killed or injured by the nets.
But the NMFS decided that the rule was unnecessary given the apparent success of alternative measures used by the fishing industry in recent years, such asunderwater sound systems designed to warn off whales and larger escape openings near the tops of the nets to give the animalsa better chance at escaping.
The bottom line is this is a fishery thats worked hard to reduce its impact,Michael Milstein, a spokesman with the federal fisheries service, told the AP.
Others, however, remain skeptical of the supposed strides made by the alternative measures. Geoff Shester, the California campaign director for Oceana, told Vocativthatthe government should be incentivizing more efficient, and sustainable technology, such as deep-set buoy gear. This echoed a similar sentiment expressed in a September 2015 letter fromthree senatorswhen the rule was first proposed.