For Immediate Release: February 16, 2024

Contacts: Elizabeth Purcell, 814-248-5169,

Todd Steiner, Turtle Island Restoration Network, 415-488-7652,

Breaking Waves: Landmark Legislation Unveiled to Protect Southern California’s Ocean Biodiversity 

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — Essential first steps have been taken to address the bycatch in California’s set gillnet fishery. Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) has introduced Assembly Bill 2220 (AB 2220) with the goal of mitigating harm to a range of marine species within the state’s set gillnet fishery. This bill seeks to protect vulnerable marine life by implementing new measures, including the elimination of existing exemptions in the law that permit these nets to inadvertently capture and keep protected species, such as great white sharks and giant sea bass, addressing the transferability of permits, and more.

“The waters in Southern California are home to so many diverse species. The California set gillnet fishery has continued to wreak havoc on this delicate ecosystem with every life that has been lost to these nets,” said Elizabeth Purcell, Environmental Policy Coordinator for Turtle Island Restoration Network. “This fishery has been under the management scope for decades, but the level of bycatch is still unacceptable. We urge the California legislature to take this instrumental step to protect our marine life and pass AB 2220.” 

In April 2023, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Oceana co-authored a harrowing report that revealed the high levels of bycatch within the set gillnet fishery. More than half of the animals caught within this fishery are tossed overboard, often already dead or dying. Several vulnerable species are among those who have been tossed overboard, including tope sharks, bat rays, California sea lions, and more. The set gillnet fishery is even responsible for more than 90% of juvenile white shark bycatch in the state of California. Despite this, the set gillnet fishery did not have maximum net soak time limits and observers were not routinely aboard vessels, leading to large data gaps.

If passed, AB 2220 will protect marine life in Southern California waters by:

  • Eliminating an exemption in the current legislation, which permits the set gillnet fishery to inadvertently catch and commercially exploit great white sharks without any catch limits. 
  • Eliminating an exemption in current legislation that allows the fishery to inadvertently catch and commercially exploit giant sea bass.
  • Extending the restriction on the use of set gillnets in state waters by banning the use of these nets out to three miles from the Channel Islands.
  • Addressing the issues associated with the transferability of permits by making set gillnet permits non-transferable.
  • Giving authority to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to require third-party observers on state fishery vessels. The observer program is essential to recording accurate bycatch data. Large gaps in bycatch data were the result of the lack of observers on set gillnet vessels. 

Turtle Island Restoration Network continues to be a leading advocate for the protection of our marine biodiversity in Southern California. While we maintain the belief that gillnets do not belong in our waters, we are pleased with the critical steps being taken to save marine life from the dangers of set gillnets.

For more information visit


Turtle Island Restoration Network is a global ocean conservation nonprofit with offices in California and Texas, whose mission is to inspire and mobilize people around the world to protect marine biodiversity and the oceans that sustain all life on Earth. Learn more at