California Finally Banned Drift Nets

Scientists compare the waters off of California's coast to Africa’s Serengeti Plain for its richness of life. Most of the Pacific Ocean’s top predators thrive there. Unfortunately, that also means they are in danger of being Bycatch of commercial fisheries. The swordfish driftnet fishery in the federal waters off the coast of California entangled a high number of sea animals, including protected species, such as dolphins, sea lions, and seabirds. Banning the use of driftnets does not mean the end to the swordfish industry. It simply means that fishermen will have to  change to fishing gear practices that result in less Bycatch. Those methods already exist.

The California Assembly and Senate passed SB 1017 to transition California away from mile-long driftnets in order to safeguard ocean animals. The bill was approved nearly unanimously and was signed by Jerry Brown.

Read this excellent press release by PEW Environment to learn more about the history and progress of this effort. Read more


So what happens next?

Having a law passed is not the end of this campaign. Stay tuned for next steps:

  1. Address drift nets on a  federal level.

  2. How much money will have to be raised to accomplish the gear changing and buy back options of permits. Only some of it will be funded by the State.

more facts about california driftnets

Currently, for every swordfish caught by the driftnet fishery, an estimated SEVEN other marine animals are entangled in nets and often injured or killed.

In the last ten years, an estimated 26,000 sharks were caught by this deadly fishery, with nearly 10,000 simply being tossed overboard. 

On the U.S. West Coast, the State of Washington banned driftnets in 2001 and Oregon abandoned its driftnet fishery program in 2009. Proposed regulations on the driftnet fishery off the coast of California were halted by the Trump administration in the summer of 2017. This has made it urgently necessary to create legislation.

Get more facts about species that are being caught on this Turtle Island Restoration Network Fact Sheet