Pacific Council Makes Plans to Phase-Out Drift Nets
The Pacific Fishery Management Council, at its March meeting in Sacramento, Calif., took several steps toward developing a “comprehensive plan” for moving away from the use of drift gill nets to catch swordfish in favor of more “environmentally and economically sustainable” types of gear. The council restated its support for existing regulations meant to prevent
entanglement of endangered leatherback turtles and whales, while stepping up research into alternative fishing gears.
In order to facilitate the transition away from drift nets on the west coast (the last place in the country that this indiscriminate and wasteful gear is still in use) while making sure they are replaced by safe and sustainable gears, Wild Oceans proposed “performance criteria” to evaluate the results of ongoing research into alternative fishing methods, such as buoy-gear, harpoons or deep-set longlines. In order for the public to have confidence in management decisions based on the research, we told the council, the precise aims and objectives against which the results will be assessed must be developed through a transparent process and then clearly spelled out.
“Instead of looking for a short-term solution to problems with the drift net fishery, we should be exploring the full complement of alternatives for creating a sustainable swordfish fishery, one with minimal by catch of all fully-exploited, over-exploited, depleted or protected species, for the long-term,” says Wild Oceans president Ken Hinman.
The council and representatives of the National Marine Fisheries Service endorsed the need for specific criteria to guide and evaluate alternative gear research and tasked its Highly Migratory Species Management Team with drafting protocols for the June meeting, using the Wild Oceans recommendations as a starting point.