California Bycatch - Oceana USA

California Bycatch

Protecting California’s Ocean Biodiversity

Reducing entanglement, injury, and death of ocean animals in California’s set gillnet fishery



Oceana campaigns to protect the diversity of California’s ocean ecosystem by minimizing entanglement of ocean animals caught in the state’s halibut and white seabass set gillnet fishery, while bolstering sustainable fishing communities.

Ocean waters off Southern California are an important migratory highway for whales, contain critical nursery grounds for sharks, and are home to giant kelp forests which support more than 1,000 marine species beneath their canopies. Marine mammals, sharks, rays, skates, fish, and seabirds that migrate, feed, and reproduce in the dynamic ocean waters off California all share a common threat: the risk of becoming entangled in set gillnet fishing gear used to target California halibut and white seabass. California set gillnets catch more than 125 species of ocean animals — the majority which are thrown overboard already dead or dying— raising conservation concerns for both threatened and endangered species as well as many other animals for which the population status is unknown. The nearly invisible paneling of nets — which can span up to a mile like underwater fencing fixed to the seafloor — also catch and kill juvenile halibut before they can reproduce, impacting other halibut fisheries.

California voters and fishery managers have taken action to ban this indiscriminate and destructive gear in nearshore waters, resulting in major rebounds in vulnerable fish and marine mammals particularly in Northern and Central California. With glaring gaps in management oversight and little public visibility, set gillnets are still allowed in federal waters (3-200 miles) off Southern California and around nearshore islands where they are causing immense damage to wildlife. The set gillnet fishery is under the jurisdiction of the California Fish and Game Commission which must address the needless waste set gillnets inflict on California’s ocean life, ensuring that the unique ocean ecosystem off Southern California can continue to thrive while bolstering sustainable fishing communities.

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