In a historic new direction in the management of California’s swordfish drift gillnet fishery, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted today to clean up the fishery by considering placing the first ever “hard caps” on the numbers of several protected species that can be injured or killed in the fishery before operations are shut down for the remainder of the season. The Council —the 14 member voting body tasked with managing fisheries 3 to 200 miles off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington—set a target to require 100% monitoring so that all catch and bycatch is counted on every trip no later than late summer 2016. They are currently scheduled to make a final decision on hard caps this fall for implementation in next year’s fishing season. Oceana welcomes today’s decision as the group has been placing pressure on the Council for years, with support from the public, to address the alarming and unnecessarily high bycatch taking place in the fishery.
“While the Council fell short of ending one of the nation’s dirtiest fisheries, it decided to put in the critical safeguards necessary to address bycatch: Count, Cap, and Control,” said Dr. Geoff Shester, California Campaign Director for Oceana. “Moving forward, the fishery is now forced to either clean up its act or get shut down.”
The Council voted to consider placing hard caps on seven threatened and endangered species which include fin, humpback, and sperm whales and leatherback, loggerhead, Olive ridley, and green sea turtles. Federal fisheries managers will also consider bycatch reduction alternatives for all other marine mammals, sharks, and fish species that are discarded in the fishery.
“Today is a great day for California’s ocean wildlife,” said Ashley Blacow, Pacific Policy and Communications Manager for Oceana. “The decision by federal fisheries managers to set absolute limits on the bycatch of rare and endangered species has been a long time coming and will begin to turn the tide to more progressive fisheries management.”
Drift gillnets, used to target swordfish and thresher sharks in ocean waters off California, form dangerous underwater walls that entangle iconic animals including whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, sea turtles, sharks, and other ecologically and economically important fish. Once entangled in these nets, most eventually drown. Between May 2007 to January 2013, the drift gillnet fishery discarded 61% of all marine animals it caught. Oceana will continue to pressure the Council to reduce bycatch in the drift gillnet fishery and provide opportunities for more sustainable fishing with methods proven to minimize bycatch.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.