For Immediate Release

Joanna Nasar
Communications Manager
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Cell: (415) 488-7711

Doug Karpa
Legal Program Director
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Cell: (415) 860-6681

Dr. Sylvia Earle & Hundreds of Scientists Sign On to Support the Phase Out of the California Drift Gillnet Fishery In Advance of Pacific Fisheries Management Council Meeting on Wednesday

Olema, CA (March 10, 2015) – Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle and 230 scientists signed on to a letter opposing the deadly California drift gillnet fishery for swordfish, which has some of the highest bycatch rates in the world. The letter specifically requests that immediate action be taken to phase out the fishery and protect the ecological integrity of California’s coastal waters. 

“It is time for California to phase out the destructive and wasteful California drift gillnet fishery that entangles more cetaceans than any other fishery along the U.S. Pacific coast,” said Todd Steiner, a biologist and director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “Despite decades of increased regulations and decreasing effort, the California drift gillnet Fishery continues to have one of the highest bycatch rates of any fishery in the United States.”

The scientific letter is addressed to the following decision makers: California Gov. Jerry Brown, California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, California Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Regional Administrator William Steele and Chair of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council Dorothy Lowman. The letter will be presented to regulators tomorrow on Wed. March 11th at the Pacific Fisheries Management Council Meeting by Turtle Island.

The scientific letter outlines how the fishery’s take of threatened and endangered marine wildlife is simply too high. Key points made include that despite the fact that Swordfish is the stated target species it only makes up 12 percent of the fisheries catch, while an astonishing 65 percent of the catch is tossed directly overboard. Sadly, much of the bycatch is considered an IUCN Red List Species.  Between 2004 and 2014, 21 percent of the catch was made up of ‘Red Listed’ species including endangered leatherback sea turtles, sperm whales, short fin mako sharks, blue fin tuna and smooth hammerheads.

“Every endangered sperm whale that downs entangled in the mega nets of the California driftnet fishery, is one too many,” said Doug Karpa, a scientist and the legal program director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “It is time to close down this wasteful gear once and for all.”

The California drift gillnet fishery is unsustainable. It captures whatever swims into it’s more than a mile-long mega nets, and indiscriminately harms a wide array of marine wildlife from endangered sperm whales to endangered leatherback sea turtles. Scientists from top research institutions include Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and universities like Standard, are calling for decision makers to follow best available scientific advice and close this fishery.

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council will hear arguments on the status of the fishery starting on Wed. March. 11. More information about the meeting is available here. 

Read the Scientist Letter Here


Turtle Island Restoration Network is an international marine conservation organization headquartered in California whose 150,000+ members and online activists work to protect sea turtles and marine biodiversity in the United States and around the world. For 25 years, Turtle Island Restoration Network has mobilized people to preserve oceans, restore rivers and streams, and protect the marine wildlife – from sea turtles to sharks – that call these blue-green waters home.