For Immediate Release

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

Lawmakers & Conservation Groups Call for Phase Out of California Drift Gillnets to Safeguard Whales & Sea Turtles

Sacramento (Dec. 22, 2014) – With the full support of Turtle Island Restoration Network, OCEANA and other marine conservations organizations, California Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) and Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara), Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel)  today called on the Pacific Fisheries Management Council and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service to transition away from deadly California drift gillnets.

“Lawmakers continue to be concerned about the use of gillnets.  We need a swordfish fishery transition plan that results in the eventual end to the use of gillnets,” said Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) and chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.  “One California gillnet swordfish fishery kills more dolphins and whales than all other West Coast and Alaskan fisheries combined and throws away more fish than it keeps.  This is unacceptable and must stop.  We call on state and federal regulators to act quickly.”

Lawmakers called on the Council and Fisheries Service to provide a written swordfish fishery transition plan with a timeline for the eventual prohibition of drift gillnet gear, and immediate implementation of hard caps and a goal of 100 percent catch and bycatch monitoring. Other fisheries like that of the bluefin tuna fishery will be at 100 percent monitoring in 2015 and will be using video cameras to document bycatch, so there is a precedent for using available technology to hold fisheries accountable.

“California drift gillnets are deadly curtains of death for marine wildlife like whales and sea turtles,” said Doug Karpa, legal program director at Turtle Island Restoration Network.  “We applaud Assemblymember Levine for taking a leadership role to ensure our oceans are not indiscriminately mined.”


Every fishing season mile-long driftnets are set to soak overnight in California’s coastal waters entangle an average of a hundred marine mammals in recent years, including protected whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions, as well as thousands of sharks, sunfish and other fish. Sea turtles are also at risk. The vast majority of marine wildlife is dumped back into the ocean, dead or injured. The swordfish and sharks they keep are so high in mercury, that the U.S. FDA warns women and children never to eat it.

Drift gillnets are already banned on the high seas, prohibited throughout in the Mediterranean Sea, not permitted by Oregon or Washington states, and are prohibited by NMFS in the North Atlantic swordfish fishery off the U.S. East Coast.

The California driftnet fishery remains the most wasteful and deadly of any commercial fishery along the U.S. West Coast, killing more cetaceans than all other  West Coast and Alaska fishery combined. Read Turtle Island Restoration Network’s full report here.

See the official 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.