A California state senate bill that will clean up California’s swordfish fishery is on its way to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. Senate Bill (SB) 1017 would phase out the use of large-scale driftnet fishing for swordfish, establish a buyout program, and incentivize the use of cleaner fishing gear to reduce the incidental catch of marine wildlife.
“These mile-long nets are deadly and destructive,” said SB 1017 bill author Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica). “Finally we have found a way to phase out their use and transition to a more humane alternative – without harming the commercial fishing industry in the process. This is a significant win for our ocean and for the California economy. We look forward to the governor signing it into law.”
Mile-long, nearly invisible mesh nets are still allowed to drift overnight in waters off California to capture swordfish, but often also entangle, injure and kill marine mammals like whales, dolphins and sea lions as well as endangered sea turtles, sharks and other important fish species. The nets kill more than 70 different species of ocean wildlife and, according to federal onboard observers, on average more than half of the unintended catch is tossed overboard already dead or dying. Despite 30 years of management measures aimed at reducing bycatch, the swordfish drift gillnet fishery remains one of the nation’s dirtiest fisheries. Nearly the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, the nets continue to kill more dolphins than all observed U.S. West Coast fisheries combined.
“It’s time for California to join the rest of the country and discontinue the use of swordfish drift gillnets, which are one of the most indiscriminate ways to fish,” said Susan Murray, deputy vice president of the US Pacific for Oceana. “There is no reason to continue using this destructive gear when there are proven alternatives, such as deep-set buoy gear, that safeguard marine wildlife while still benefitting fishermen and seafood consumers.”
If Governor Brown signs SB 1017 into law, it will phase out the use of swordfish drift gillnets over a four-year period following establishment of a buyout program funded through public-private partnerships. Drift gillnet fishermen will be compensated for the value of their drift gillnet permit and must surrender their nets.
SB 1017 passed the senate (33-0) in May and the assembly (78-0) in August with bi-partisan support with the following co-authors: Senator Bob Wieckowski (D- Fremont) and Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D- Santa Monica), William Brough (R-Dana Point), Wendy Carrillo (D- Los Angeles), David Chiu (D- San Francisco), Kansen Chu (D- San Jose), Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Jesse Gabriel (D-San Fernando Valley), Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), Ash Kalra (D- San Jose), Marc Levine (D- Marin County), Brian Maienschein (R- San Diego), Kevin Mullin (D- South San Francisco), Al Muratsuchi (D- Torrance), Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), Mark Stone (D- Scotts Valley), and Marie Waldron (R- Escondido).
The bill also had broad support from conservation organizations, recreational fishermen, businesses, and the majority of California residents. Governor Brown has until September 30 to decide if he will make the bill law.
For more information about swordfish drift gillnets and gear alternatives visit www.oceana.org/stopthenets
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 200 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit www.oceana.org to learn more.