Senate Passes Bill to Protect Marine Wildlife from California Driftnets

In Collaboration with Seaturtles.org

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

 

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Today, SB 1017, a bill that would transition California away from the use of large-scale driftnets, successfully cleared the California Senate. The bill was approved 33-0 and will now head to the state Assembly.

SB 1017, authored by Senator Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, would:

Implement a driftnet permit buyback program;

End the use of driftnets after the 2023 fishing season (new entrants into the swordfish fishery will be directed toward the use of lower impact fishing gears for a modernized fishery).

The bill is co-authored by Senator Wieckowski and Assembly Members Bloom, Levine, and Mark Stone.

This is the first time a bill of this type has made it to the California Senate.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, only one in eight of the animals caught in California’s driftnets is a swordfish. The nets kill more than 70 different species of ocean wildlife. Large-mesh drift gillnets have been banned by the United Nations on the high seas, by a host of countries, and throughout much of the United States.

California is the last state in the U.S. to allow drift gillnet fishing for swordfish and thresher shark off its coast.

Federal bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate to phase out the use of large mesh driftnets off the coast of California.

“I am pleased the approach taken in SB 1017 to phase out the use of this damaging equipment earned broad bipartisan support in the Senate today,” said Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica). “I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders on a plan that protects marine life while being fair to everyone involved.”

“Drift gillnets have an outsized impact on ocean health and the sportfishing community has been working for decades to remove them,” said Bob Kurz, trustee of International Game Fish Association and board member of Coastal Conservation Association California. “This bill is both fair and reasonable, will address the issue of bycatch, compensate commercial fisherman for retiring their nets and provide a path towards sustainable gear.”

“We have been working to reduce the devastating and cruel impact of this driftnet fishery on whales, dolphins and sea turtles for 20 years, and passage of this legislation will go a long way toward making the Pacific Ocean safer for endangered marine wildlife,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.

“This is a huge success,” said Cassie Burdyshaw, Advocacy and Policy Director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “We’re thrilled to see that California legislators are voting in favor of our ocean.”