Proposed California bill would further limit gillnet fishing in the state's waters

A gillnet placed in the ocean.

A bill making its way through the U.S. state of California's legislature would introduce more restrictions on the state’s gillnet fishery.

Gillnet fishing has been banned along most of California’s coast, but it remains legal in federal waters and in state waters around California’s Channel Islands. State Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) has introduced legislation  Assembly Bill 2220 that would extend the set gillnet fishing ban to more areas and add protections for great white sharks and giant seabass.

“There are alternative methods of fishing proven to diminish harm on marine life and reduce bycatch while producing higher-quality seafood. AB 2220 aligns Southern California waters with Northern California by prohibiting gillnets in all ocean waters of the state, broadening protections for marine life and encouraging sustainable practices for all who enjoy and make a living from our ocean,” Bennett said.

Bennett’s legislation would expand the ban on gillnet fishing to 3 miles out from the shores of California’s Channel Islands. It would also remove exemptions that allow fishers to take great white sharks and giant seabass as bycatch and sell them without catch limits. 

In addition, the bill would make gillnet permits non-transferable and give authority to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to require fishing observers for state fisheries.

The legislation is backed by Oceana and the Resource Renewal Institute.

“The diversity of ocean life off California rivals any other place around the globe, but the state’s set gillnet fishery is threatening the very ocean animals that support a healthy ocean ecosystem, drive tourism, support robust fisheries, and are valued by Californians,” Oceana California Campaign Director and Senior Scientist Geoff Shester said. “Californians have already said they don’t want these nets off our shores, having voted to ban them more than 30 years ago.”

The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, which was passed as part of a 2022 omnibus spending bill, is set to phase out large-mesh drift gillnets in the California swordfish fishery completely by 2027.

Photo courtesy of Damsea/Shutterstock


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