Earlier this month, several conservation groups, including Oceana, announced plans to file a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to protect sperm whales from deadly, mile-long drift gillnets used in the California drift gillnet fishery.
Yesterday, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced an area closure for the California swordfish drift gillnet fishery after facing mounting pressure from Oceana and our partner conservation groups. This closure, known as the Pacific Loggerhead Conservation Area, will occur from July 25 to August 31, 2014 in an area that stretches just north of Santa Barbara and runs south of San Diego, and will prevent endangered loggerhead sea turtles from entangling and drowning in these indiscriminant nets.
Earlier this month, Oceana in Europe and Corriere della Sera, an Italian newspaper, embarked on a behind-the-scenes mission to uncover illegal fishing in the Port of Bagnara in southwest Italy. During an overnight mission, the team documented illegally caught swordfish from drift gillnets entering the Port. This isn’t the first undercover mission from Oceana—earlier this summer we uncovered drift gillnets in Morocco. Read below for a behind-the-scenes look at this mission, and click here for more background information.
Earlier this month, Oceana in Europe and Italian journalist Sabrina Giannini gathered evidence of Italian fishermen using illegal drift gillnets in the swordfish fishery at the Port of Bagnara Calabra in southern Italy. Despite a 2002 ban by the European Union on this destructive fishing gear—and even with the Italian government providing high subsidies for other fishing techniques—Italy continues to use this illegal gear.
Last weekend, PBS NewsHour Weekend Edition aired a feature story on Oceana’s campaign to end drift gillnet use off California. This commercial fishery sets out mile-long nets at dusk to catch swordfish and thresher sharks, but these nets also capture an abundance of other marine wildlife—including whales, dolphins, sea lions, sharks, and other ecologically and economically important fish. In fact, the fishery throws overboard 61 percent of everything it catches.*
Earlier this week, Oceana in Europe found that Morocco is once again using illegal driftnets in the swordfish fishery, despite an official phase-out in 2010. Photographs gathered by Oceana over the past few days show small and large vessels coordinating to capture swordfish in the Strait of Gibraltar, which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean.
Earlier this week, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reinstated emergency protections for sperm whales from California’s swordfish and thresher shark fishery, which protects these magnificent whales from accidentally being caught in drift gillnet gear. The agency will now require independent observers on all vessels in deep offshore waters where sperm whales are frequently observed, and require that all vessels carry satellite monitoring systems to ensure they’re avoiding areas off limits to drift gillnets.
Here’s a very simple way to protect marine life—keep drift gillnets out of California waters. Fishermen use this fishing gear to target swordfish and thresher sharks, but they also catch and kill dozens of other important marine species. In 2011, for every five swordfish the fishery landed, one marine mammal was killed and six fish—including sharks and tunas—were tossed overboard dead or dying.
Last week, the Pacific Fishery Management Council rejected a proposal to expand the use of drift gillnets off California. The decision was paired with a request to extend emergency regulations to protect sperm whales from entrapment in drift gillnets until permanent protections go into effect. The meeting in Sacramento drew unusually high numbers of public comments, including more than 40,000 written comments from Oceana supporters alone. It's a step in the right direction when it comes to getting the destructive form of fishing gear out of California waters.
On November 18, 2013, our team in the Pacific sent a letter to NOAA Fisheries requesting photos of marine life drowned in drift gillnets off the coast of California. We already knew that each year over a hundred marine mammals are killed by drift gillnets, mile-long fishing nets set below the water’s surface to catch swordfish and thresher sharks in the area. Animals big and small—whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions—are caught in these walls of mesh and often drown, and Oceana wanted to bring forward any photographic proof of gillnets’ damage.