Turtle Island’s latest report: California Driftnet: The True Costs of a 20th Century Fishery in the 21st Century Overview by Doug Karpa, Peter Fugazzotto and Todd Steiner makes a compelling case for phasing out this deadly swordfish fishery that kills large numbers of whales, dolphins, sharks and non-target fish. The report exposes the facts about this fishery.

Only one in eight fish caught by this fishery are swordfish.

Driftnets have been called “curtains of death,” and California’s fishery seems to meet this definition. Setting out huge, mile-long nets out to float in the ocean off the coast of California, it indiscriminately catches whatever swims there. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this is not a very targeted method of fishing for one species of fish, and the new report clearly shows that it isn’t.

The fact is this fishery has killed:

  • an estimated 26,000 sharks in the last decade;
  • an estimated 16 sperm whales in the last decade;
  • an estimated 885 marine mammals have been
    killed in the past decade;
  • 22 critically endangered leatherback and loggerhead
    sea turtles; and
  • numerous other marine animals like bottlenose dolphins, long-
    beaked common dolphins, northern right whale dolphins, Pacific white-sided dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, short-beaked common dolphins, gray whales,  humpback whales, minke whales, sperm whales, shortfin pilot whales,  California sea lions, and northern elephant seals.

If these animals were washing up on our beaches and shores, we would be outraged. But because this fishery operates secretly off our coast, it is harder to see the impact.

Turtle Island’s new report details that impact and outlines how the fishery for swordfish is among the most wasteful fisheries in the world in terms of bycatch (unwanted animals caught and discarded). The just-released-report examines new data that shows the driftnet fishery is a threat to marine mammals, sea turtles and sharks; targets toxic high-in-mercury fish; is a drag on California’s economy; and hampers efforts to clean up international fishing practices.

California, we can do better.

It is time to shut down this fishery.


Click to download the Driftnet Overview.