Yesterday afternoon, the California Senate voted 33-0 on Senate Bill (SB) 1017 that will clean up the state’s swordfish fishery by transitioning away from antiquated large mesh drift gillnets to cleaner fishing gears that will also safeguard ocean wildlife.
SB 1017, authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) would end the use of large mesh drift gillnets by 2023, provide financial compensation to fishermen for their nets and permits, and incentivize fishermen to switch to cleaner gear types like deep set buoy gear.
“By passing Senate Bill 1017 the California Senate just voted yes for the oceans,” said Geoff Shester, California Campaign Director and Senior Scientist for Oceana. “Phasing out large mesh drift gillnets for new, cleaner fishing gears will maintain a domestic swordfish fishery that will safeguard ocean wildlife while benefiting seafood consumers, businesses, and fishermen.”
According to federal onboard observers, the swordfish drift gillnet fishery on average tosses overboard more than half of all animals caught with much of the unintended catch already dead or dying. The nets kill more than 70 different species of ocean wildlife which over the years has included whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, and recreationally important fish like marlins. California is currently the only state on the West Coast that allows swordfish landings using this gear.
SB 1017 is now headed to the Assembly with broad support from conservation organizations, recreational fishermen, businesses, and the majority of California residents.
Also concerned by the wasteful nature of large mesh drift gillnets to catch swordfish, U.S. Congress is also proposing complimentary measures to transition the fishery. Last month Senators Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) introduced S. 2773.
To learn more about the swordfish drift gillnet fishery click here