California Lawmakers Move to End Use of Gill Nets
The California legislature approved a bill to end commercial drift gill-net fishing and sent it to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.
Senate Bill 1017 phases out the use of mile-long nets that drift in the open ocean, compensates drift gill-net fishermen, and encourages a transition to innovative new fishing gear.
Drift gill nets, 50 yards deep and up to a mile long, are nearly invisible and drift freely overnight in the ocean, ensnaring far more marine species than the fish targeted. Approximately half the catch ends up being discarded as unwanted, prohibited or protected species.
Recognizing the indiscriminate nature of drift nets, the United Nations banned large-scale drift nets on the high seas 20 years ago. The U.S. prohibits drift nets of any size in the East Coast fisheries, and the European Union disallowed drift-netting among its 27-member states in 2002.
Wild Oceans, the International Game Fish Association, the Coastal Conservation Association of California, and the American Sportfishing Association recognized Sen. Ben Allen, D-santa Monica, for introducing the bill. They have been working together to promote a transition away from drift nets to safer, more selective fishing methods.
If Brown signs SB 1017 into law, California will develop a transition program that will phase out drift gill-net fishing over a four-year period. Fishermen will be required to surrender their nets to ensure the gear is not used elsewhere, and the state will compensate them a fair market value for their permits.