California To Phase Out Large Mesh Drift Gillnets by 2024
A request to officially transition the California drift gillnet swordfish fishery from large mesh drift gillnets to alternative options was submitted under The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act (H.R. 404 and S. 273) in an attempt to utilize more sustainable gear to conserve highly migratory species and healthier ecosystems. With fishing conservation at the forefront of the decision, California will be retiring said gillnets within state waters (< 3 miles from the coast) to ensure sustainable resources for current and future generations. While federal waters (3 to 200 miles offshore) will still have access to this type of fishing gear, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hopes their action will still reduce bycatch and advance a transition to sustainable gear. In addition to removing gillnets from U.S. waters, the legislation also grants the U.S. more control over sustainable fishing practices, specifically referring to the importation of gillnet-caught swordfish.
California’s state legislature passed a phase-out authorization for the gear in 2018, which included financial compensation for permit holders who voluntarily surrendered their nets, permits, and switched to more selective gear. As long as the current deadlines are met, the completion of a phase-out is set to occur four years from the signing of the law, or January 31st, 2024.
Thirty-eight (38) California permit holders participated in the program, receiving $2.7 million for surrendering their nets and permits. More than 50 miles and 54 tons of large-mesh gillnets were collected, destroyed, and set to be recycled.