In a unanimous vote, the California State Assembly voted to ban the use of gill nets off its coast. The bill is now headed to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.
Gill nets are primarily used to catch swordfish, but are responsible for a substantial amount of bycatch and unintended killing of many types of sea life.
About 20 fishermen currently use gill nets off the coast of California. If the Governor signs the bill into law, these fishermen will have a phaseout period to shift to more humane methods and also be paid $100,000 in return for turning in their nets and $10,000 for turning in their gill net licenses.
California is the only state that issues permits for gill netting. The Pew Charitable Trust have been advocating for the ban for over five years. According to Paul Shively, project director at the Pacific Ocean Conservation at the Trusts, “[Using gill nets] is not only inhumane, it’s just not a good way to manage our U.S. resources.”
In April 2018, Mercy for Animals produced a video that brought a renewed focused to the issue. It highlighted the fact that for every one swordfish caught using a gill net, seven other sea creatures are caught. It showed dead fish and other sea creatures caught in gill nets and nauseating treatment of these animals. The video showed workers maiming live creatures — slicing off a shark’s fin and a stingray’s tail.
The United Nations banned the use of “large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing” — or gill netting — in international waters in 1991. With Governor Brown’s signature, California fishermen will no longer be licensed to utilize this harmful practice. Instead they will be pushed to utilize an alternative method (Deep Set Buoy Gear) that minimizes the potential for bycatch and harming other Pacific sea life.