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Photo: © Paul Nicklen

The End of Death Nets: California Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Marine Wildlife from California Driftnets

San Francisco Bay Area (August 30, 2018) – Today, the California legislature passed a bill (SB 1017) that would phase out the use of large-scale driftnets, also known as ‘walls of death,’ that are used to catch swordfish but also trap a myriad of ocean animals. The bill now sits on Governor Brown’s desk for signature before September 30, 2018.

Turtle Island Restoration Network has led a coalition of concerned citizens and partner organizations working for nearly 20 years to stop the devastating impact of this driftnet fishery on sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and other ocean animals, beginning with litigation in 2000 that led to a 250,000 square mile closure to protect endangered sea turtles.

“Passage of this legislation to phase out this harmful fishery will go a long way toward making the Pacific Ocean safer for ocean wildlife,” said Cassie Burdyshaw, Advocacy and Policy Director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.

SB 1017, authored by Senator Ben Allen, along with over 15 coauthors:

  • Phases out the use of swordfish drift gillnets over a four-year period following establishment of a transition program funded through public-private partnerships; and
  • Authorizes the implemention of a transition fund to help fishermen who will be required to stop using the nets.

California’s driftnet fishery, the last in US waters, discards over one half of all fish caught and has killed over 70 different marine species. California is the last state still allowing use of this archaic method to catch swordfish off its coast. Internationally, large-scale driftnets are already banned on the high seas, in the Mediterranean, and in waters off Russia because of the unavoidable impacts on marine wildlife, including whales, dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles.

“Passage of the bill with strong bipartisan support is a rebuke to the Trump administration, which, in 2017, withdrew a proposed rule aimed at creating more transparency in the fishery and reducing its impact on a variety of affected wildlife species,” said Burdyshaw.

Earlier in the year, Turtle Island Restoration Network and a coalition released gruesome video footage from driftnet vessels showcasing the continued need to address the ongoing harm to wildlife. The video that included footage of a bloodied, dead dolphin garnered millions of views and spurred thousands to call for legislative action.

“Today marks the end of driftnets in US waters, a barbaric fishing technology that has largely operated in secret off our coasts for decades and unbeknownst to most Californians,” said Todd Steiner, a marine ecologist and Executive Director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.

The bill also had broad support from conservation organizations, recreational fishermen, and a variety of businesses, such as dive shops, restaurants, and whale watching businesses that agreed that locally-caught seafood shouldn’t come at the expense of whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and other sensitive marine wildlife caught in mile-long drift gillnets off our coast.

“These mile-long nets are deadly and destructive. Finally we have found a way to phase out their use and transition to a more humane alternative – without harming the commercial fishing industry in the process,” said Senator Ben Allen. “This is a significant win for our ocean and for the California economy. We look forward to the governor signing it into law.”

Turtle Island Restoration Network mobilizes people to restore oceans, preserve rivers and streams, and protect the marine wildlife – from sea turtles to sharks to salmon – that call these blue-green waters home. Turtle Island Restoration Network is 30-year-old environmental non-profit with offices in California, Texas and Hawaii. Our members and online activists work to protect marine biodiversity in the United States and around the world. Visit www.SeaTurtles.org to learn more.

CONTACTS:
Cassie Burdyshaw, Advocacy and Policy Director
Turtle Island Restoration Network
cburdyshaw@seaturtles.org
(513) 292-3101
Todd Steiner, Executive Director
Turtle Island Restoration Network
TSTeiner@seaturtles.org
(415) 488-7652

Photos, video, reports and resources are available at the following links:

https://seaturtles.org/ban-death-nets-press-kit/
https://seaturtles.org/commercial-fishing-coalition-driftnet-investigations-high-resolution-photographs/
https://seaturtles.org/bandeathnets/

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