Sacramento, CA – Legislation to phase out the use of harmful, mile-long fishing nets that ensnare and often kill whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life passed the legislature today. Senate Bill (SB) 1017, authored by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica), was sent to the governor with a vote of 36 - 1 in the state Senate. It passed the state Assembly with a bipartisan, near unanimous vote of 78 – 0 yesterday.
“These mile-long nets are deadly and destructive. 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,” said Senator Allen.
California is the only state in the country to allow this fishing method, and even the United Nations has banned it. Between 2001 and 2015, the California-based swordfish drift gillnet industry caught 753 dolphins, 507 seals and sea lions, 112 seabirds, 53 whales, and 35 sea turtles as incidental bycatch to the swordfish. All of the dolphins were killed and only a handful of the whales, turtles and sea lions escaped without serious injury or death.
SB 1017 establishes an incentive program that will use a combination of private and public funds to buy back the fishing permits of swordfish fishermen and incentivize them to transition to a safer alternative, such as deep-set buoy systems. Fishermen who choose not to participate in the buyback program will be allowed to continue to use the nets for five years, but after that, these nets will be phased out.
"Concerned citizens have been working for more than 20 years to stop the devastating impact of this driftnet fishery on whales, dolphins and other ocean animals," said Cassie Burdyshaw, advocacy and policy director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. "Passage of this legislation will go a long way toward making the Pacific Ocean safer for ocean wildlife."
“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.”
“These reforms are long overdue. By phasing out large-mesh drift gillnets in favor of less destructive gear, California is protecting the rich and iconic marine wildlife that are key to its coastal communities’ livelihoods while ensuring sustainable fisheries for generations to come,” said Paul Shively, Pacific Ocean conservation project director, The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The bill now heads to the governor, who has until September 30 to sign it into law.
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