Oceana provides USD 1 million to California gillnet buyback program

Published on
September 17, 2020

Environmental conservation group Oceana announced on Monday, 14 September, that it contributed USD 1 million (EUR 845,500) to California’s efforts to end the drift gillnet fishery in the U.S. state.

Oceana’s contribution matches state funding and goes toward a buyout program for fishermen who have been using the controversial gear to catch swordfish. The buyout program was part of a state law passed two years ago that calls for their elimination by 31 January, 2024.

In a statement, Oceana California Campaign Director Geoff Shester said advocates have been working for years to get to this point. Oceana raised the money thanks to personal contributions from individuals and families as well as donations by the Marisla Foundation, Cinco Hermanos Fund, Offield Family Foundation and Sue J. Gross Foundation.

“It is a true blessing to know that our children and grandchildren will grow up with a California ocean free of deadly drift gillnets," Shester said. “We are so thankful to the donors who generously contributed funds toward this innovative transition program that will save whales, sea turtles, and other ocean wildlife by removing harmful drift gillnets from our oceans, and provide opportunities for California fishermen to catch swordfish with more selective methods like deep-set buoy gear.”

Oceana is still accepting donations toward the fund and will submit all contributions to the state.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 48 licensed drift gillnet fishermen announced their intent to take advantage of the buyout. Participating fishermen will receive USD 110,000 (EUR 93,000) and must return their drift gillnet permit and a receipt from an approved net-destruction entity that shows their old gear has been surrendered.

The buyback process officially started last month.

Oceana said the nets will be recycled into products such as sunglasses and skateboards.

California was the last state to allow the use of the nets to harvest swordfish. The state law, though, only applies to state waters. However, Oceana is working with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), who has sponsored similar legislation to end the permits in federal waters. Feinstein’s bill has already passed the Senate and awaits action in the House.

Photo courtesy of NOAA, via Oceana

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