The Trump administration denied protections for endangered whales and sea turtles off the West Coast on Monday. It nixed proposed regulations that stated if any two endangered whales or sea turtles or if any combination of four short-finned pilot whales or bottlenose dolphins were killed or seriously hurt by gillnets (mile-long fishing nets) within a two-year period, an area off the coast of Oregon and California would be barred from gillnet fishing for up to two years.
“The Trump administration has declared war on whales, dolphins, and turtles off the coast of California,” Todd Steiner of the Turtle Island Restoration Network told NBC.
The Center for Biological Diversity noted in 2014 that the California-based drift gillnet fishery “kills more whales and dolphins than any other fishery off the U.S. West Coast and Alaska combined.” The group stated last year that the same fishery “catches and discards more than 100 protected whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions each year, in addition to thousands of sharks and other fish.” With some populations of endangered whales and turtles critically low, every death or injury is significant to species survival.
Biologists have reported that whales and other animals trapped in gillnets endure agonizing deaths by suffocation. Fish caught in these nets also endure unconscionable suffering by literally being caught by their gills with no way to escape. Some refer to drift gillnets as “curtains of death” and say there is no way to humanely use them.
Over the years, scientific studies have proven that fish of all species can feel pain. In an interview with Mercy For Animals, Dr. Jonathan Balcombe, animal expert and author of What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins, stated:
There are many scientific studies that demonstrate fish pain. For example, zebrafishes are willing to pay a cost to get pain relief. When a painkiller was dissolved in a barren, unpreferred chamber of their tank, fishes injected with a dose of painful acetic acid chose to swim there, but fishes injected with a benign solution stayed in the preferred section of the tank.
It’s time we stop supporting an industry that endangers marine mammal and turtle populations and causes unimaginable suffering to sentient creatures. Keeping fish off your plate is the easiest and most ethical way to protect our oceans.