Today, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill — Senate Bill (SB) 1017 — that will clean up California’s swordfish fishery. SB 1017 will phase out the use of large-mesh driftnet fishing for swordfish, establish a buyout program, and incentivize the use of cleaner fishing gear to reduce the incidental catch of marine wildlife.
“We applaud the legislature and Governor Brown for their leadership in bringing this harmful and outdated fishing practice to an end,” said Susan Murray, Deputy Vice President for Oceana. “This is literally an enormous net benefit for endangered whales, sea turtles and other marine life, as well as to responsible fishermen, coastal communities and seafood consumers. There is no longer room in our oceans for any fishery that throws away more than it keeps, especially in this case since we have sustainable alternatives to catch swordfish.”
The swordfish drift gillnet fishery uses mile-long, nearly invisible mesh nets —nearly the length of the Golden Gate Bridge — that drift overnight in waters off California to capture swordfish. The nets often also entangle, injure and kill marine mammals like whales, dolphins and sea lions as well as endangered sea turtles, sharks and other important fish species. The nets kill more than 70 different species of ocean wildlife and, according to federal onboard observers, on average more than half of the total catch is tossed overboard already dead or dying. Despite 30 years of management measures aimed at reducing bycatch, the swordfish drift gillnet fishery remains one of the nation’s dirtiest fisheries, which continues to kill more dolphins than all observed U.S. West Coast fisheries combined. Yet a new method called deep-set buoy gear has demonstrated profitability, higher market prices, and minimal bycatch.
The Governor’s signature on SB 1017 will phase out the use of swordfish drift gillnets over a four-year period following establishment of a buyout program funded through public-private partnerships. Drift gillnet fishermen will be compensated $10,000 for their state drift gillnet permit and active fishermen will be compensated an additional $100,000 for surrendering their nets to the state for recycling and disposal.
SB 1017 passed the senate (33-0) in May and the assembly (78-0) in August with bi-partisan support with the following co-authors: Senator Bob Wieckowski (D- Fremont) and Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D- Santa Monica), William Brough (R-Dana Point), Wendy Carrillo (D- Los Angeles), David Chiu (D- San Francisco), Kansen Chu (D- San Jose), Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Jesse Gabriel (D-San Fernando Valley), Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), Ash Kalra (D- San Jose), Marc Levine (D- Marin County), Brian Maienschein (R- San Diego), Kevin Mullin (D- South San Francisco), Al Muratsuchi (D- Torrance), Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), Mark Stone (D- Scotts Valley), and Marie Waldron (R- Escondido).
The bill also had broad support from conservation organizations, recreational fishermen, businesses, and the majority of California residents.
For more information about swordfish drift gillnets and gear alternatives visit www.oceana.org/stopthenets