Victory | September 14, 2015
Landmark Decision to Protect Endangered Sea Turtles, Dolphins, and Whales
The Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted hard limits on the number of endangered marine mammals and sea turtles that can be injured or killed in the California-based swordfish drift gillnet fishery. If too many endangered species are caught over a two-year period, the fishery will be shut down for the remainder of the fishing season. Drift gillnets — stretching a mile in length and 200 feet below the ocean’s surface — target swordfish and thresher sharks in federal ocean waters off California. Yet they create a deadly trap for all ocean wildlife that swims in their path. On average, the swordfish drift gillnet fishery throws overboard 64 percent of its catch, much of it dead or dying. Marine mammals feeding off the coast of California are regularly ensnared in these invisible nets and they drown when they are not able to surface for air. According to the Council decision, hard caps will be set for the following nine wildlife species: endangered fin, humpback, and sperm whales, short-fin pilot whales, and common bottlenose dolphins; as well as for endangered leatherback, loggerhead, olive ridley, and green sea turtles (see table, below). Federal fishery observers are expected to monitor 30% of the fishery to determine if the caps are hit in the next two fishing years, and fishery monitoring will increase to 100% in 2018 according to the Council action.