Stop the California Drift Gillnet Expansion and End the Curtain of Death
The California drift gillnet fishery for swordfish and shark continues to capture and kill dolphins and sea lions, and to toss back, dead and damaged, 20 to 30 percent of its catch of fish. The capture and deaths of two endangered sperm whales were observed in the drift gillnet fishery in 2010, equal to an estimated total of 16 whales caught and injured or killed in the fishery.
Because the drift gillnet fishery is so deadlly to marine life of all kinds, it has been severely restricted. Yet federal fishery officials in defiance of longstanding California state policy and conservation laws are trying to expand this unsustainable fishery again!
Take Action! Tell National Marine Fisheries Service and the Pacific Fisheries Management Council to halt any further action to expand the California drift gillnet fishery for swordfish and shark off the U.S. West Coast.
Dear National Marine Fisheries Service and Pacific Fisheries Management Council,
I am writing to urge the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (the Council) to halt any further action to expand the drift gillnet fishery for swordfish and shark off the U.S. West Coast. In particular, I oppose weakening the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area that has reduced entanglements of endangered leatherback sea turtles to one over the past decade. At the March 2013 meeting, the Council must vote no on any proposals that would allow more gillnet fishing in leatherback habitat or increase the high bycatch in this unpopular, unsustainable fishery.
Drift gillnets have been banned on the High Seas and along most of the U.S. West Coast because of high bycatch of marine life including endangered whales, dolphins, sea turtles, shark, tuna and other non-target fish. Recently two endangered sperm whales were entangled and killed in the California drift gillnet fishery. As a result the fishery is now operating in violation of conservation laws protecting marine mammals.
Any actions to increase gillnet fishing conflict with new protections given to sea turtles over the past year, including designation of critical habitat for Pacific leatherbacks along the West Coast and and the uplisting of the Pacific loggerheads from threatened to endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. To date, NMFS has failed to protect critical habitat for loggerheads as required by the Endangered Species Act.
For these reasons, I urge you to stop any and all efforts to expand the swordfish gillnet fishery before it goes any farther. Instead, I urge you to begin to phase out the drift gillnet fishery along our coast, permanently ban longlining under any circumstances and to support sustainable fishing practices that don't compromise the health of endangered species, fisheries and our oceans.