Swordfish Driftnets Gone off CA – Will Longlines Follow?

West Coast highly migratory species (HMS) issues now focus on what fisheries will follow the large mesh drift gillnet fishery for swordfish. The process has begun by the Pacific Fishery Management Council to decide, with public input, what fisheries can essentially replace the driftnet fishery to provide fresh swordfish to local markets. The search for new swordfish fisheries will include public workshops in southern California during the winter or early spring of 2024. One key component for workshop discussions includes developing a streamlined Exempted Fishery Permit (EFP) process. One early option being raised is shallow-set longline gear. Some desire to authorize the sale of bycatch species that were often caught in the large mesh driftnets.

Preparation and guidance for identifying transition fisheries included a review of the Swordfish Monitoring and Management Plan from which a new guidance document was issued – the HMS Roadmap.  Thus far, 4 goals are included in the HMS Roadmap, including:

  • Innovation and development of multi-species fishing practices to catch swordfish and other species that are caught within the West Coast Exclusive Economic Zone (waters out to 200 miles from shore);
  • Limit unmarketable species to a predefined acceptable level;
  • Support the economic viability of domestic West Coast fisheries that harvest swordfish and other HMS species by promoting a wide range of harvesting methods; and
  • Promote climate-ready HMS fisheries by supporting resilience and flexibility in management approaches and communities and consideration of climate impacts on fishing operations.

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