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A short-finned pilot whale hangs lifelessly in a California drift gillnet. NOAA

The Trump administration proposed a rule Tuesday to federalize regulation of drift gillnets used to catch swordfish on the West Coast. The rule would end California's right to prevent the deadly entanglements of sea turtles, whales and dolphins in these underwater, mile-long nets.

The Obama administration last year proposed a rule that would shut down the fishery for two years if two large whales or sea turtles were harmed by the nets, but the Trump administration withdrew that proposed rule in June. Legislation to phase out drift gillnets was introduced in California in 2014 and 2016, and the new federal rule would preempt such efforts in the future.

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Buyers look through frozen tuna on sale at the fish market in Tokyo's Tsukiji district. Rob Gihooly

The Trump administration rejected a petition Monday to protect imperiled Pacific bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act. This powerful apex predator, which commands top prices at fish auctions in Japan, has been overfished to less than 3 percent of its historic population. Although the National Marine Fisheries Service announced in October 2016 that it was considering listing the Pacific bluefin, it has now concluded that protections aren't warranted.

"If the paychecks of fishery managers and federal officials were tied to the status of this marvelous creature, they would have done the right thing," said Carl Safina, president of the Safina Center and a scientist and author who has worked to draw public attention to the plight of the bluefin tuna.

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