Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sea turtles protected from drift gillnets

Drift gillnets are still used to catch fish?! Wait a minute, I thought they were banned worldwide. That's what most people say when they hear the latest fishing news from the US west coast.

After terrible publicity about 40 mile long "curtains of death" killing many kinds of ocean life, an international ban on drift gillnets was implemented in 1991. But this so-called "ban" actually allows use of drift gillnets up to 2.5 kilometers long.

Now move to the ocean off California and Oregon--there is a legal drift gillnet fishery for sharks, swordfish and tuna. Drift gillnets also catch and kill whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other fish, most of which are thrown overboard dead. To protect endangered sea turtles, a large area off California and Oregon is closed to fishing during turtle season.

This week, federal managers decided not to re-open this area to drift gillnet fishing during turtle season. It's a great victory for conservation. The amazing thing is that the push for more drift gillnet fishing got as far as it did. Fishing interests have strong influence, almost control of fishing regulations in US waters, and they almost got their way in re-starting fishing that is bad for sea turtles. Not this time. I doubt the idea will just go away, but for now, turtles can breathe easier. In this case, the fishery management process worked.

The back story here? Who knew that drift gillnets are still legal?

1 comment:

Kate said...

Now if only we can get Mexico to stop using nets, we may just be able to save those last few Vaquita.