For Immediate Release

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

Turtle Island Calls to End California’s Driftnet Fishery

Seeks to End One of Worst in the Nation for Marine Mammals

Olema, Calif. (January 26, 2016) – The ocean and marine conservation organization, Turtle Island Restoration Network launched a new campaign to call for a phase out of California’s driftnet fishery. With its new report ‘California Driftnet: The True Costs of a 20th Century Fishery in the 21st Century Overview,’ the non-profit organization outlines how the California driftnet fishery for swordfish is among the most wasteful fisheries in the world in terms of bycatch (unwanted animals caught and discarded). Turtle Island is ramping up efforts to raise awareness about this fishery that targets high-in-mercury swordfish with a new Public Service Announcement video (watch here), and a planned protest on Sunday, March 13th in Sacramento, Calif. to call for legislative action (details here).

“California’s driftnet fishery kills more whales and dolphins than any other on the West Coast, and that is too high a price to pay for swordfish dinner. It’s time to phase it out,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network (SeaTurtles.Org), “We expect our California legislators to take action, and put a bill on the table that outlines a new way forward,” he added.

“A growing coalition of conservationists, sports fisherman, animal welfare groups, scientists, whale watchers, scuba divers and concerned legislators and citizens want to phase out driftnets in California. It’s clear the time to do so is now,” said Cassie Burdyshaw, advocacy director and legal co-director for Turtle Island.

Currently, Sacramento decision makers are being delivered the just-released-report and briefed by Turtle Island’s staff. The report examines new data from NOAA, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, and other sources that show this fishery is a serious threat to marine mammals, sea turtles and sharks; targets toxic high-in-mercury fish; is a net drag on California’s economy; and hampers efforts to clean up international fishing practices. While the PSA educates consumers and diners about how choices they make impact their own health and California’s oceans and marine wildlife.

“Our campaign calls for the phase out of this deadly fishery, which is killing too many whales, dolphins, sea turtles and sharks. Our latest report provides critical information to lawmakers and it is time for them to act,” said Doug Karpa, legal program and science policy director at Turtle Island.

Background on the California Driftnet Fishery

Today, the driftnet fishery in California consists of roughly 20 fishing vessels. The vessels set out nets the size of the Golden Gate Bridge to float overnight and indiscriminately catch whatever swims into their nets.[i] The California driftnet fishery kills or injures approximately seven times more whales and dolphins than all other observed fisheries in California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska combined, and 13 times more than any other single observed fishery on the West Coast.[ii] The fishery has killed an estimated 16 endangered sperm whales in the last decade. Recent stock assessments suggest that this take is more than the population can sustain from all sources combined, much less from a single fishery.[iii] In total, an estimated 885 marine mammals have been killed in the past decade alone. [iv] Driftnets are banned by the United Nations, on the high seas, by a host of countries, and throughout the United States. Turtle Island’s new report shows that it is time for California to phase out this outdated and ineffective method.

Download the Driftnet Overview Report here (.pdf).

Watch the PSA on YouTube here.

Protest in Sacramento, CA Details here.


Turtle Island Restoration Network works to mobilize people and communities around the world to protect marine wildlife, the oceans and the inland waterways that sustain them. Join us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. SeaTurtles.Org


[i][i] i. 50 C.F.R. § 660.713, and Stock Assessment and Fisheries Evaluations (SAFE) Report, Pacific

Fisheries Management Council, available at

[ii] NOAA Observer Program data,

[iii] NOAA Observer Program data and 2012 Stock Assessment Report, Sperm Whale California/Oregon/Washington Stock,

[iv] See high priority species bycatch per set, from Highly Migratory Species management Team Report on Swordfish Fishery Management and Monitoring Plan including Management Alternatives,Table 13, Agenda Item E.3, June 2015 PFMC Meeting, available at /wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E3a_HMSMT_Rpt_HardCaps_JUN2015BB.pdf