A new California state senate bill that will clear up California’s swordfish fishery is on its way to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. Bill 1017 has been proposed to phase out the use of large-scale driftnet fishing for swordfish, establish a buyout program, and incentivize the use of cleaner fishing gear to reproduce the bycatch of marine wildlife.
Bycatch has proven to be one of the biggest threats to the oceans as nets such as driftnet have caused absolute devastation to marine life through out the oceans. As driftnets move through the water, the mile-long invisible nets catch anything and everything in its.
“These mile-long nets are deadly and destructive,” said SB 1017 bill author Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica). “Finally we have found a way to phase out their use and transition to a more humane alternative – without harming the commercial fishing industry in the process. This is a significant win for our ocean and for the California economy. We look forward to the governor signing it into law.”
Currently, the fishing industry is 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. The nets kill more than 70 different species of ocean wildlife and, according to federal onboard observers, on average more than half of the unintended catch is tossed overboard already dead or dying. Despite 30 years of management measures aimed at reducing bycatch, the swordfish drift gillnet fishery remains one of the nation’s dirtiest fisheries.
“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,” said Susan Murray, deputy vice president of the US Pacific for Oceana. “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.”
If Governor Brown signs SB 1017 into law, it will phase out the use of swordfish drift gillnets over a four-year period following establishment of a buyout program funded through public-private partnerships. Drift gillnet fishermen will be compensated for the value of their drift gillnet permit and must surrender their nets.
SB 1017 passed the senate (33-0) in May and the assembly (78-0) in August with bi-partisan support. The support and push to end a destructive practice is the exact thing that is so encouraging to see when most ocean-related news is negative. Thankfully conservation groups such as Oceana are out there battling to better our planet everyday.
Governor Brown has until September 30 to decide if he will make the bill law.
For more information about swordfish drift gillnets and gear alternatives visit www.oceana.org/stopthenets