Report | April, 2023
The Net Consequence: Impacts of Set Gillnets on California Ocean Biodiversity
Off the U.S. West Coast, Southern California’s ocean waters are some of the most productive and diverse in the world. Marine mammals, sharks, rays, skates, fish, and seabirds that migrate, feed, and reproduce in the dynamic ocean waters of this region all share a common threat: the risk of becoming entangled in set gillnet fishing gear. These nearly invisible monofilament nets indiscriminately catch more than 125 species of ocean animals — the majority of which are thrown overboard already dead or dying — raising significant concerns over the fishery’s impacts on California’s marine biodiversity.
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. Management tools are available to reduce bycatch to sustainable levels and a more selective hook and line fishing method is already well-established. The California Fish and Game Commission that manages this fishery must address the needless waste set gillnets inflict on California’s marine environment, to ensure that the unique ocean ecosystem off California can continue to thrive, while bolstering sustainable fishing communities.
Ashley Blacow-Draeger, email@example.com