Sacramento, CA – Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation authored by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) to phase out the use of harmful, mile-long fishing nets that ensnare and often kill whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life – Senate Bill (SB) 1017.
“This hard-won victory was a long time coming. Finally we have found a way to phase out the use of these deadly and destructive nets without harming the commercial fishing industry in the process. I am grateful to Governor Brown for 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.
“I’m very pleased that we now can look forward to a time not far in the future when magnificent marine creatures will no longer be injured and killed by these nets. I am grateful to the lead supporters of the legislation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Oceana and Turtle Island Restoration Network, and hundreds of other groups, for their steadfast, effective advocacy of this measure,” Allen added.
“We commend Governor Brown and the California legislature for protecting sea turtles, whales and dolphins by signing this legislation. All other states and many nations already prohibit drift gillnets because more than half of the marine life caught with this gear is discarded – often dead or dying. And because of the research supported by Pew, fishermen have a far less harmful alternative for catching swordfish known as deep-set buoy gear,” said Paul Shively, Director of Pacific Ocean Conservation for The Pew Charitable Trusts.
“Concerned citizens have been working more than 20 years to stop the devastating impact of this driftnet fishery on whales, dolphins, and other ocean animals,” said Cassie Burdshaw, 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.”
“We applaud the legislature and Governor Brown for their leadership in bringing this harmful and outdated fishing practice to an end,” said Susan Murray, deputy Vice President for Oceana. “This is literally an enormous net benefit for endangered whales, sea turtles and other marine life, as well as to responsible fishermen, coastal communities and seafood consumers. There is no longer room in our oceans for any fishery that throws away more than it keeps, especially in this case since we have sustainable alternatives to catch swordfish.”
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