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More than 250 Scientists Call on Legislators & Fisheries Managers to Protect California’s Marine Wildlife from Driftnets

For Immediate Release

CONTACT:
Joanna Nasar
Communications Director
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Cell: (415) 488-7711
Joanna@SeaTurtles.Org

Olema, CA (May 11, 2016) – Over 250 scientists released a joint scientific letter opposing the deadly California driftnet fishery for swordfish, which has some of the highest bycatch rates in the world. The letter, coordinated by Turtle Island Restoration Network, specifically requests that immediate action be taken to phase out the fishery and protect the ecological integrity of California’s coastal waters.

The scientific letter, addressed to Governor Jerry Brown, the California Legislature, and the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, is wake up call from the scientific community to decision makers to phase out the use of indiscriminate driftnets.

The California legislature now has the opportunity to pass Senate Bill 1114 to reduce the number of damaging driftnets off the California coast, and to bring online a more sustainable deep-set buoy gear. Senate Bill 1114 is authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and sponsored by Turtle Island Restoration Network. It lays out a clear plan to address the concerns of hundreds of scientists, and thousands of members of the public, while also moving the fishery into the 21st century.

“The science is clear. It is time for California to phase out the destructive and wasteful California driftnet fishery that entangles more cetaceans than any other fishery along the U.S. West Coast,” said Doug Karpa, legal and policy director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “We can and should demand that our fisheries do better.”

The scientific letter was recently presented to regulators and lawmakers, and outlines how the fishery’s take of threatened and endangered marine wildlife is simply too high. The letter is timely, as currently lawmakers in the Senate Appropriations Committee will be considering the bill on May 16th. The bill would put a stop to the decades of irresponsible fishing for swordfish, and modernize the out-of-date fishery by incentivizing the use of more sustainable fishing gear.

Currently, the driftnet fishery in California consists of less 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 killed 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.

Scientists from top research institutions include Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and universities like Stanford, are calling for decision makers to follow best available scientific advice and close this fishery.

As a person who has studied sharks much of my life, I am appalled that blue, short fin mako, and smooth hammerheads are discarded from these nets.  These are apex predators with small populations at the top of the trophic pyramid.  This fishery should be replaced by the more sustainable fishing practices preferred by the public, the eventual consumers of seafood,” said Peter Klimley, Adjunct Professor and Director of the Biotelemetry Laboratory Department of Wildlife, Fish, & Conservation Biology for the University of California, Davis, CA.

Read the Scientist Letter Here: 2016.05.10_CalDriftnet_SciLetter_final

More information about the proposed legislation can be found here: http://sd26.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd26.senate.ca.gov/files/SB1114.pdf

Read our report on the California driftnet here: https://seaturtles.org/resources/driftnet-overview/?parent=sharks

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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