California passes bill to ban controversial drift net fishing

California passes bill to ban controversial drift net fishing

California is set to officially ban commercial fishermen from using drift nets off its coasts.

The state legislature passed a bill Thursday that would make it ultimately unlawful for commercial fishers to use shark or swordfish drift gillnets, as well as troll lines and hand lines that are more than 900 feet in length, unless they are used as set lines.

The law will set up a transition program to phase out fishermen's use of shark or swordfish drift nets by offering incentives to those who voluntarily give up their previously received permit.

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The state would fund the transition by using $1 million in funds from its Ocean Protection Council for whale and sea turtle entanglement.

Drift nets are frequently linked to the deaths of sea turtles and marine mammals including whales and sea lions. Fishermen use them by hanging the nets like walls above the sea floor, indiscriminately catching whatever flows into them.

A video released by conservation groups in April showing visuals of the dead animals caught in the nets in part helped spur the senate bill.

In late April, California Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinOvernight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Eight senators ask Biden to reverse course on Trump-era solar tariffs MORE (D) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHispanics sour on Biden and Democrats' agenda as midterms loom Officer who directed rioters away from senators says Jan. 6 could have been a 'bloodbath' Trump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections MORE (D), along with Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoBipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law Lobbying world Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  MORE (R-W.Va.), introduced federal legislation that would ban the use of nets specifically along California's coast. 

“The use of drift nets to target swordfish harms too many endangered or protected marine animals and should be phased out,” Feinstein said in an emailed statement to the Orange County Register. “It’s unacceptable that a single California fishery that uses this type of drift net is killing more dolphins and porpoises than the rest of the West Coast combined.”

The California state bill now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) signature. He has until Sept 30. to sign it into law.