After years of debating, Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new law that will ban the use of giant ocean fishing nets ,known as drift nets, used to catch swordfish.
The decision to ban the nets is so pivotal as they have been the main reason for the high numbers of bycatch including turtles, dolphins and sharks.
The new bill, SB 1017, requires the state to set up a program to buy back nets and fishing permits from commercial fishermen who work in the drift net industry.
“There is no longer room in our oceans for any fishery that throws away more than it keeps,” said Susan Murray, deputy vice president for Oceana, an environmental group with offices in Monterey that pushed for the new law.
California is the last West Coast state to allow drift gill nets. Voters banned their use in state waters out to three miles offshore in 1990, but they remain legal beyond that in federal waters. Many other states already have banned them, including Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii.
Under the new law, it will become illegal for California fishermen to transfer their drift gill net permits starting March 31, 2019. After that, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife is required to set up a program by March 31, 2020 to pay fishermen $10,000 for their permit. Active fishermen will be paid an $100,000 for surrendering their nets to the state for recycling and disposal.
The program will be funded with $1 million in donations from foundations and other organizations and $1 million in state funding. Within four years of it being up and running, any remaining drift gill net permits will be revoked.