Walls of Death Floating in the Pacific
Act now to save dolphins and other wildlife from deadly drift gillnets.
Mile-long drift gillnets are left out to soak overnight in the waters off of southern California. Intended to catch swordfish and thresher sharks, these nets also capture and critically injure iconic marine animals like the dolphins, endangered sperm whales, sharks, and sea turtles.
In 2011, for every five swordfish landed by boats using drift gillnets, one marine mammal was killed and six fish were tossed back dead or dying. These numbers are unacceptable.
Drift gillnets are already banned in Washington and Oregon, and they should not be allowed off California, home to a variety of endangered and iconic wildlife. It's time to eliminate this deadly fishing method and replace it with cleaner fishing gear.
Sign today to tell decision-makers to rid our ocean of drift gillnets and protect our wildlife.
To California state and national decision-makers:
As citizens concerned about the health of our oceans, we support the elimination of drift gillnets used to catch swordfish and thresher sharks in ocean waters off California and replacement by cleaner fishing methods.
Instead of using indiscriminate and destructive drift gillnets, the fishery should be transitioned to clean gear types. California’s drift gillnet fishery is responsible for entangling and killing over one hundred marine mammals per year—including dolphins, whales, and sea lions—and it continues to ensnare endangered sea turtles, as well as non-targeted fish such as blue sharks, bigeye thresher sharks, striped marlin, and ocean sunfish. In 2011, for every five swordfish landed by boats using drift gillnets, one marine mammal was killed and six fish were tossed back dead or dying.
We are outraged that this fishery is continuing to kill our most iconic whales, including humpbacks, minke, gray, and sperm whales. Meanwhile, over 80% of the fishery is unobserved. Despite current regulations on gear types and allowable fishing areas, the bycatch in drift gillnets is simply unacceptable. As we have learned over the past 30 years that drift gillnets have been allowed to catch swordfish, attempts at improved management are a dead end. Quite simply, drift gillnets have been proven to be unsustainable, both economically and ecologically. Any proposed expansion of the fishery is an enormous waste of taxpayer money and completely irresponsible to the future abundance of these marine resources. California and the U.S. have the legal and moral responsibility to protect endangered leatherback sea turtles—which are now an official California state symbol, yet could be extinct in 20 years if current trends continue—as well as the wide suite of marine life that congregate in the California Current ecosystem from across the Pacific. Continuing to authorize the drift gillnet fishery, much less considering expanding it, fundamentally contradicts the responsibility of our government to the citizens of California and the United States.
When these curtains of death are left to soak overnight they entangle top predators and migratory species that come from across the Pacific Ocean to the California Current ecosystem to feed and maintain the natural progression of ‘checks and balances’ in its vast food web. This wild ocean ecosystem is as important and iconic as Africa’s Serengeti. In order to maintain ocean health and biodiversity in our ‘Blue Serengeti’, drift gillnets should be eliminated and replaced with clean and responsible fishing methods that impose minimal bycatch. Notably, there is an existing harpoon fishery for swordfish off California that has virtually zero bycatch, and a history of harvesting swordfish at levels comparable to the drift gillnets of today. We understand that the U.S. imports swordfish from other countries that may also be using irresponsible methods. The solution is not to lower standards for our fishermen, but to pressure foreign nations to improve their practices and ultimately stop importing foreign seafood products if such nations fail to comply. Ultimately, our government should end the use of drift gillnets off the Pacific coast altogether, and transition to cleaner and more responsible fishing gear.