For Immediate Release: May 20, 2016
Images available here:

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

Just Released Graphic Photos Expose Carnage of Deadly California Driftnet Fishery

Government Forced to Release Images Showing Dead Dolphins, Whales, Sharks and Sea Turtles

Olema, Calif. (May 19, 2016) – Turtle Island Restoration released graphic photos exposing the deadly California driftnet fishery’s incidental catch of mutilated dolphins, whales, sharks and sea turtles just days before a crucial vote in the California Senate to phase out this deadly fishery.

The photos were obtained through a legal petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency responsible for the protection of these protected species, who places required observers onboard a small percentage of vessels in order to document the carnage.

The California driftnet fishery sets mile-long invisible nets off the California coast to catch swordfish and thresher shark, but entangles anything that swims into them. It has been described as the most destructive fishery on the West Coast, incidentally killing more whales and dolphins than all other observed West Coast commercial fisheries combined, according to government figures.

“Statistics aside, these images of bloody dolphins and mutilated sharks and turtles capture the true cost of this barbaric fishery,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Though a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Turtle Island Restoration Network obtained the photos from the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is required to place a small percentage of observers on vessels in order to estimate the number of protected species being harmed by this fishery. The images are from the period 1997 to present.

The California driftnet fishery consists of fewer than 20 vessels, and costs taxpayers more money to manage, than the value of target species of fish caught.

“I can only imagine the suffering these air-breathing mammals endured as they became ensnared in these nets and could not surface to breathe. Because they swim in family groups, mothers and siblings probably witnessed the slow drowning of their kin. This barbarity must end,” said Cassie Burdyshaw, Turtle Island’s driftnet campaign director. “We are now looking to legislators to take action and protect our ocean wildlife and end this carnage once and for all,” she added.

Senate Bill 1114, introduced by Senator Allen (D – Santa Monica), proposes a commonsense phase-out plan to ban driftnets in California waters, and stop the slaughter of marine wildlife. The bill would transition driftnets to a new, more environmentally responsible fishing method called deep-set buoy gear.

SB 1114 passed through the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, and a vote is expected in the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 26th. If passed through, SB1114 will then move to the Senate floor for consideration.

View the FOIA images here:

More information about Senate Bill 1114 can be found here:

Read our report on the California driftnet here:


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