A controversial way of catching swordfish that often snags other marine life needs to end, said five politicians in a letter sent Monday to federal fishery managers.
State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, and Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, signed the letter that called for an end to drift gill nets, known for snagging everything from dolphins to sea otters.
“While progress has been made, the amount of bycatch caught in drift gill nets used to capture swordfish remains unacceptable,” the letter read.
A bill to stop the practice, AB 2019, was shut down in May by the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife. Stone was the principal coauthor.
The bill was protested by fishermen who said the gill nets are still used by fishermen outside of United States’ jurisdiction, and they would be put out of business. Washington and Oregon have banned the practice for boats harbored there.
Monday’s letter was sent to the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Rather than an outright ban, the letter suggested a “transition plan,” which should contain a timeline to ban gill net gear and implement bycatch monitoring.
Oceana, an ocean advocacy nonprofit with an office in Monterey, suggests alternatives to the large nets, such as harpoons or deep-sea buoy gear designed to target swordfish at depths where other sea life can be avoided.
Nearly 550 marine mammals were killed or entangled by drift gill nets in the last five years, according to Oceana.
Swordfish are no longer fished within the waters of Monterey Bay. Oceana California campaign director Geoff Shester said the nets were used in the Bay around 30 years ago but now swordfish fisheries are only allowed south of Point Sur.
The letter was also signed by state Assemblymen Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, and Das Williams, D-Carpinteria.