Environmental Group Sues Trump Administration for Allowing More Gillnet Deaths

Drift gillnets – mile-long fishing nets placed underwater to catch swordfish – have earned the ominous yet appropriate nickname “walls of death.” They have proven to be deathtraps for other sea life as well.

From 2001 to 2015 in California, the drift gillnet fishery captured 1,460 protected marine species. The bycatch included endangered whales and sea turtles, as well as dolphins, seals, sea lions and seabirds.

In an effort to help save these lives, a rule was proposed in 2015 to place limits on the number of certain marine animals that could be killed or seriously injured by gillnets on the West Coast. If two endangered whales or sea turtles — or four pilot whales or bottlenose dolphins — died or suffered injuries within a two-year period, the gillnet swordfish fishery would be shut down for as long as two years.

These limits, recommended by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which manages fisheries in California, Oregon and Washington state, were supported by conservationists as well as the swordfish fishing industry.

That’s why it’s so troubling that the Trump administration removed those limits last month. Why was the rule removed? Because he economic costs outweighed any benefits to sea life, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“The cap would have imposed a cost on the industry to solve a problem that has already been addressed,” said NOAA fisheries spokesman Michael Milstein. According to NOAA, the deaths of bycatch in gillnets have dropped in recent years, which is true – but only because the use of these “walls of death” has also declined.

In response to the government’s removal of the bycatch limits, on July 12 the nonprofit environmental group Oceana filed a federal lawsuit against Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

“The withdrawal of this important protection for whales, sea turtles and other species is plainly illegal,” Mariel Combs, Oceana’s attorney, said in a statement. “The law requires the fisheries service to respect the fishery management council’s expertise in managing fisheries.”

According to the lawsuit, Ross violated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which governs the management of marine fisheries in U.S. federal waters. This act provides a streamlined regulatory approval process emphasizing the decision-making authority of the fishery management councils – and limiting what actions the secretary of commerce can take in response to those decisions.

Oceana isn’t the first nonprofit to sue over actions affecting animals that have been taken by the Trump administration that affect animals. When important animal welfare information, including data about puppy mills and research laboratories, suddenly disappeared from the USDA website in February, groups including PETA and the Beagle Freedom Project filed a federal lawsuit to have it restored.

In October 2016, the Humane Society of the United States warned that a Trump presidency would be “a threat to animals everywhere.” Just six months after Trump took office, this prediction is proving to be all too true.


Please join more than 149,000 Care2 members who have signed this petition urging the Pacific Fishery Management Council to phase out the use of cruel gillnets by California’s commercial fishing industry.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Margie FOURIE7 months ago


ANA MARIJA R7 months ago

Good grief in such shot time so much damage and destruction... :(( Petition signed/shared. Thank you!

Michele B
Michele B7 months ago

too bad human kind can't seem to be either kind OR human with the precious resources we are given to help and protect

Carl R
Carl R7 months ago


Janet B
Janet B7 months ago


Carl R
Carl R7 months ago


Danuta W
Danuta W7 months ago

Thanks for sharing

natasha s
Past Member 7 months ago

Trum+this administration are heartless sociopaths. Pitiful regime. Signed

Sonia M
Sonia M7 months ago

Petition signed,thanks for sharing