Victory | May 31, 2023
Newly Approved Innovative Fishing Gear Will Reduce Bycatch off West Coast
Following campaigning by Oceana and its allies, the National Marine Fisheries Service legally authorized the commercial use of an innovative fishing gear that will protect whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and other ocean animals from fishing entanglements off the U.S. West Coast. Called deep-set buoy gear, this gear is designed to catch swordfish in a clean and profitable way. Legal authorization of this gear type is a critical step in the transition away from mile-long drift gillnets, a highly unselective fishing method that had previously entangled many other ocean animals. This newly approved fishing method consists of a floating buoy supporting a single vertical line with up to three baited hooks that is deployed during the day when swordfish feed at deeper depths than most other species. The buoys indicate when a fish has been caught, so fishers can retrieve their catch within minutes of it being hooked. Swordfish caught with deep-set buoy gear earn a much higher price per pound than those caught in drift gillnets because the fish is fresher and not damaged by a net. Additionally, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program added swordfish caught with deep-set buoy gear and harpoons to its Green List as a “best choice.” The Green List includes seafood recommendations for businesses and consumers based on seafood that is well managed and caught in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife.