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US Agency Kills Proposal to Protect Endangered Sea Life From Fishing Nets

FILE - Gillnetters repair a net near the mouth of the Columbia River in Astoria, Ore.

The Trump administration is throwing out proposed rules aimed at keeping endangered whales, turtles and other sea life from getting caught in Pacific Coast fishing nets.

The regulation was proposed under the Obama White House in 2015 by not only government experts, but also members of the Pacific fishing industry. It would have shut down what is called drift gillnet fishing for swordfish for as long as two seasons if too many endangered animals are caught in the nets and killed.

The fishing boats drag the 1.6 kilometer-long nets along the Oregon and California coasts for swordfish.

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, which decided to kill the proposal, said it would create "a much more substantial impact on the fleet than we originally realized."

A spokesman said the fishing industry is taking safety measures and is working hard to drastically cut the number of whales, turtles and dolphins stuck in the nets.

A senior scientist with the conservation group Oceana, Geoff Shester, criticized the Fisheries Service.

"Today's decision demonstrates the administration's blatant disregard for recommendations of its own fishery advisors and reverses course on commitments made by the previous administration."

Shester called on the fishing industry to abandon gillnets in favor of methods he said are proven to profitably catch swordfish without the deadly unintended catch of other marine wildlife.