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Indybay Feature
Sun Sep 14 2014
New Data Shows California Drift Gillnets Not Sustainable, Continue to Kill Marine Mammals
Observers Document Killing of Whales, Dolphins and Sea Lions by Fishery
The National Marine Fisheries Service has released new data showing that the California-based drift gillnet fishery targeting swordfish killed an estimated 53 marine mammals from May 2013 through January 2014. Fishery observers monitored 34 percent of the drift gillnet sets made last year; they documented that the fishery killed an estimated three California gray whales, six short-finned pilot whales, nine northern right whale dolphins, nine California sea lions and 26 short-beaked common dolphins.

“Every year that drift gillnets are used off the California coast to catch swordfish, the result is that iconic whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and thousands of fish are ensnared and killed as bycatch,” said Geoff Shester, California campaign director for Oceana. “Ultimately this gear type must be fully prohibited off the West Coast so we can have a sustainable swordfish fishery.”

In a letter sent to the regional Pacific Fishery Management Council — the 14-member voting body tasked with advising the Fisheries Service on federal fishery management — Oceana requested that this gear type used to catch swordfish be prohibited in all waters off the U.S. West Coast, and during any transition period that “hard caps” be established on the total number of whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, sharks and other fish that can be killed as bycatch. If such hard caps were reached or exceeded in any fishing season, the fishery would be shut down for the remainder of the season. The fishery is currently operating without a valid permit as required by law, meaning the federal government is knowingly allowing it to operate illegally.

Read More | See Also: Lawsuit Launched to Reinstate Protections for Endangered Sperm Whales

Previous Coverage: Swordfish Drift Gillnet Fishery Restricted to Protect Loggerhead Sea Turtles || Whales and Sea Turtles Win One: No Driftnet Expansion in California
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