Today, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation unanimously passed the bipartisan Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act (S. 2773), a significant step forward in ending the destructive and wasteful use of drift gillnets to catch swordfish off California. These 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. Introduced earlier this year, the bill advanced today would phase out the use of large-scale driftnet fishing for swordfish and promote the adoption of cleaner fishing gear that reduces the incidental catch of marine wildlife.
Oceana applauded today’s vote and released the following statement from Susan Murray, deputy vice president of the U.S. Pacific:
“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. The nets inflict such devastation to marine life that they have earned the name “Walls of Death.” In fact, more dolphins and porpoises are killed in this fishery than all other observed U.S. West Coast and Alaska fisheries combined.
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.
Passing the bill in the Commerce Committee clears the first hurdle toward a sustainable swordfish fishery off California’s coast. We urge Senate leadership to allow a full Senate vote to help ensure this bill becomes law.”
In addition to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Oceana thanks Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for cosponsoring this legislation.
In August, California lawmakers passed complementary legislation in the state legislature that would phase out the use of large-scale driftnet fishing for swordfish, provide financial compensation to fishermen for their nets and permits, and incentivize fishermen to switch to cleaner gear types like deep set buoy gear. The bill is now waiting for Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.
For more information about swordfish drift gillnets and gear alternatives visit www.oceana.org/stopthenets.