CEO Note: Drift Gillnets Must Go | Oceana
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March 21, 2014

CEO Note: Drift Gillnets Must Go


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.

Oceana recently released a dozen images of marine life injured and killed in California’s drift gillnets, the vast majority never seen by the public before. Obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the National Marine Fisheries Service, these photos document the unnecessary—and entirely avoidable—waste associated with drift gillnets.

Floating beneath the surface, these mile-long nets soak through the night, catching open-ocean animals that swim into them. Nicknamed “walls of death” in the conservation community, drift gillnets entangle more than 100 marine mammals every year, along with sea turtles, thousands of sharks and other economically important fish.

Recently, California Assemblymember Paul Fong introduced legislation (AB 2019) to end the use of this unsustainable and wasteful fishing gear off of California. Sponsored by Oceana and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, this bill would end the use of drift gillnets for swordfish off California. Drift gillnets for swordfish have already been prohibited in Washington and Oregon, and have been banned on the Mediterranean Sea and across the international high seas. With better fishing gear types available and historic lows in fishery participation, there is no reason to keep using this deadly and unsustainable fishing gear.

We need your help to protect marine life from drift gillnets. If you’re a California resident, write directly to your legislator to urge them to support this new bill. You can also take action with Oceana to tell California lawmakers that drift gillnets must go.

For the oceans,
Andrew Sharpless
Chief Executive Officer