Quantcast

California Moves to Ban Fishing Nets Blamed for Killing Numerous Species


Oceans
Silvertip Sharks (Carcharhinus albimarginatus) caught in gillnet. Jeff Rotman / Oxford Scientific / Getty Images

The California State Assembly unanimously approved a bill on Thursday that phases out the use drift gillnets in the state by January 2023.

The controversial fishing gear, which can stretch a mile long and suspend 100 feet underwater, is used by fishers to target sharks and swordfish, but the nets inadvertently entangle and kill scores of other marine animals, including endangered species.


The Assembly voted 78 to 0 on Senate Bill 1017, sponsored by state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica). It passed 36 to 1 in the Senate in June. It now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has until Sept. 30 to sign it into law.

"So grateful to everyone for their hard work pulling together a strong bipartisan vote in support of protecting marine-life from unnecessary death with SB 1017," Allen tweeted Thursday.

Gillnet with white perch. NOAA / Chris Doley

Should the bill become law, it would create a buy-back program that offers up to $110,000 to fishers to give up their nets, NBC Bay Area reported.

California fishers said the ban threatens their livelihood and the buyout amount is not enough for them to transition to another type of fishing.

"I don't know what I'd do," Mike Flynn, who has used drift gillnets to catch swordfish for the past 40 years, told the publication. "There's very few of us left, and we don't seem to have a chance ... we're being villainized, unjustly."

The news site reported that some 20 fisherman actively use the gear off the California coast, down from 141 active permits at its peak in 1990, according to NOAA.

The bill's passage comes just months after conservation group Mercy For Animals and the Ban Death Nets coalition released grisly undercover footage showing the harmful impact of driftnet fishing on marine life.

Mercy For Animals celebrated the vote and urged Gov. Brown to join other governments that have outlawed the nets. "California is the last remaining U.S. state to allow driftnets, which have already been phased out off the U.S. East Coast and banned by Oregon and Washington states, the United Nations, and countries around the world," the group stated on their website.

World Animal Protection released a report highlighting that 640,000 metric tons of fishing nets are lost or discarded in our oceans each year, trapping and killing countless marine mammals, including endangered whales, seals and turtles. Shallow coral reef habitats also suffer further degradation from the gear, which can take up to 600 years to decompose.

Earlier this week, fishermen found roughly 300 dead sea turtles off the southern Pacific coast of Mexico. The olive ridley turtles, which Mexico classifies as being at risk of extinction, were entangled in an abandoned illegal fishing net.

Mexico's office of the federal attorney for environmental protection said the turtles were found in a 393-foot long net that is not approved for fishing, according to the Associated Press.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Fresno, California, seen above, is receiving $66 million for walking trails, sidewalks, bike lanes, and more. DenisTangneyJr / iStock / Getty Images

Grecia Elenes grew up in Fresno, California. She says some parts of the city have been neglected for decades. When she moved back after college she realized nothing has changed.

Read More
People are seen embracing at Numeralla Rural Fire Brigade near the scene of a water tanker plane crash on Jan. 23 in Cooma, Australia. Three American firefighters have have died after their C-130 water tanker plane crashed while battling a bushfire near Cooma in southern NSW this afternoon. Jenny Evans / Getty Images

Three U.S. firefighters gave their lives battling Australia's historic wildfires Thursday when their airborne water tanker crashed.

Read More
Sponsored
The Doomsday Clock is now at 100 seconds to midnight. EVA HAMBACH / AFP via Getty Images
The Doomsday Clock is now 100 seconds to midnight, partly because of the climate crisis.
Read More
A new report spotlights a U.N. estimate that at least 275 million people rely on healthy coral reefs. A sea turtle near the Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef is seen above. THE OCEAN AGENCY / XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY

By Jessica Corbett

In a new report about how the world's coral reefs face "the combined threats of climate change, pollution, and overfishing" — endangering the future of marine biodiversity — a London-based nonprofit calls for greater global efforts to end the climate crisis and ensure the survival of these vital underwater ecosystems.

Read More
Half of the extracted resources used were sand, clay, gravel and cement, seen above, for building, along with the other minerals that produce fertilizer. Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty Images

The world is using up more and more resources and global recycling is falling. That's the grim takeaway from a new report by the Circle Economy think tank, which found that the world used up more than 110 billion tons, or 100.6 billion metric tons, of natural resources, as Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Read More