For Immediate Release

Turtle Island Wins Victory for Whales, Dolphins & Sea Turtles
Threatened by the California Driftnet Fishery for Swordfish

Olema, Calif. (Oct. 14, 2016) – This week the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposed a rule that would put in in place limits on the number of fin, humpback, sperm whales, leatherback, loggerhead, olive ridley,  green sea turtles, short-fin pilot whales, and bottlenose dolphins that the California driftnet fishery for swordfish can catch. This rule, when finalized later in the year, would trigger a temporary closure of the fishery if too many of these species are harmed. View the proposed rule here.

“We applaud the agencies for taking action to protect California’s marine wildlife from the deadly driftnet fishery for swordfish. The proposed rule is a victory and a step in the right direction, but we believe that ultimately even more should be done to protect whales, dolphins, sea turtles and sharks,” said Peter Fugazzotto, strategic programs director of Turtle Island Restoration Network, a leading ocean and marine conservation organization.

The limits, referred to as ‘hard caps’ by the agency, would trigger an immediate closure of the fishery in certain instances. On the Federal Register website the agencies explain that this could happen “if a hard cap on mortality/injury is met or exceeded for certain protected species during a rolling 2-year period. The length of the closure would be dependent on when—during the 2-year period—the hard cap is reached.”

This new rule, when implemented, will provide whales, dolphins, and sea turtles some small measure of protection from the fishery. It will also add another much needed layer of oversight to the fishery, which currently has very low observer coverage on-board vessels. Observers, are trained professionals that count and record the number of marine animals harmed and killed by the fishery that are not its intended catch.

Currently, the driftnet fishery in California consists of fewer than 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. 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. In one decade the fishery caught an astounding 885 marine mammals. Eliminating the use of driftnets would instantly reduce the observed U.S. West Coast marine mammal catch by 87 percent. Furthermore, the cost of operating the fishery is more than the value of its catch.

View the Federal Register here.

Read our reports on the California driftnet fishery here.


Turtle Island Restoration Network is an international marine conservation organization headquartered in California whose 200,000+ 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.