Oceana today joined with Senator Dede Alpert (San Diego) and United Anglers in support of Senate Bill 1459 to protect California waters from bottom trawl fishing. The bill is part of Oceana’s larger campaign to stop destructive bottom trawling on sensitive ocean seafloor areas.
“We applaud Senator Alpert for her leadership in protecting vital seafloor habitat,” said Jim Ayers, regional director of the Pacific for Oceana. “Ultimately we are talking about sustainability of our oceans. It is possible to maintain vibrant fisheries while still protecting the habitat those fish depend upon. SB 1459 is a step toward ensuring sustainable fisheries in California.”
Bottom trawling is one of the most damaging fishing methods on the Pacific seafloor. In this fishing practice, a huge heavy net drags the floor of the ocean, scooping up most fish, animals and plants in its path, leaving a scar in its wake. Depending on the sensitivity and resiliency of the habitat trawled on, these scars may not recover in our lifetime, if ever.
Despite their potential for great harm, California bottom trawl fisheries are not currently managed by the California Fish and Game Commission under the Marine Life Management Act. SB 1459 would bring these fisheries under the authority of the Fish and Game Commission, limit the number of new participants, ban trawling where it is currently permitted in state waters, and require that bottom trawlers in federal waters use gear that reduces bycatch and harm to bottom habitat.
Oceana has been working with fishermen, marine scientists, the public, and policymakers on the West Coast to develop and implement a management approach that limits the destruction of essential fish habitat by bottom trawling. This approach combines science, law, and policy to evaluate and mitigate the impact of bottom trawling on sensitive seafloor areas while also considering the potential economic impacts to affected bottom trawl fisheries. By restricting bottom trawling in some areas, it is possible to find a balance. Efforts such as SB 1459 will help ensure the Pacific ocean remains healthy for this generation and more.
“Our oceans are not a limitless resource,” said Dr. Mike Hirshfield, Oceana’s chief scientist and vice president of North America Oceans. “We are beginning to see the results of man’s unchecked damage to the critical ocean ecosystems that support our fisheries. We are at a crossroads—and we need to change our direction before we reach the point of no return.”