In a 24-12 vote, the California Senate passed Senate Bill 1459 today to protect ocean habitats from bottom trawling. The vote was a victory for California’s ocean. The bill, introduced by Senator Dede Alpert (D-San Diego) closes loopholes that have prevented adequate management of bottom trawl fisheries in California waters. Bottom trawling is a destructive form of fishing that drags heavy nets along the ocean floor killing sealife and destroying important ocean habitat.
"This is a big step in protecting California’s Pacific waters and providing leadership for our nation," said Jim Ayers, Regional Director of the Pacific for Oceana. "This legislation provides balance of economy and conservation by allowing for both a strong bottom trawl fishing fleet and protection of habitat."
According to the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council 2002 Report, The Effects of Trawling & Dredging on Seafloor Habitat, bottom trawling reduces the complexity and biodiversity of the seafloor, and should be strictly managed to reduce sweeping impacts on fish and seafloor habitats. The Academy recommends three management solutions: effort reduction, gear restrictions, and area closures. Senate Bill 1459 uses all of these tools to bring the bottom trawl halibut, sea cucumber, shrimp, and prawn fisheries under regulation by the California Fish and Game Commission.
Senate Bill 1459 is also strongly supported by recreational fishermen. "We’re ecstatic that the Senate has a vision to step up to the plate and help remove destructive fishing gears," said Tom Raftican, President of United Anglers of Southern California. "This shows we can protect the seafloor, and have users continue to enjoy productive Pacific fisheries."
The recently released U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy Report calls for immediate changes in how we manage our oceans while it is still possible to reverse past damage. Senate Bill 1459 is part of this solution to protecting and preserving California’s vast and productive waters. "As a coastal state known for its progressive environmental policies, California needs to stop destructive fishing practices," Senator Alpert said, "and that means halting bottom trawling unless a trawl operator meets strict environmental standards. I decided to introduce this bill after extensive research and fact-finding discussions indicated restrictions are needed now, before it’s too late."