Bay Area enviros target use of drift gill nets – litigation threat from Oceana, Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network

SANTA CRUZ – Calling them “curtains of death,” Bay Area environmentalists have put the federal government on notice that they intend to sue to halt the controversial use of drift gill nets for commercial fishing. Sometimes more than a mile long, the nets are used in the waters off California to catch shark and swordfish. But because they can sweep up unintended catch – including rare and endangered species such as sperm whales and leatherback sea turtles – environmentalists have long criticized their use. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is eliminate drift gill nets from being used off the California coast altogether,” said Dr. Geoff Shester, California program director for Monterey-based Oceana. “These are the lions and tigers of our blue Serengeti, but here we are allowing this fishery to continue.” The litigation threat comes from Oceana and the San Francisco-based Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network – groups that have pushed aggressively for everything from fishery changes to marine habitat protections to designation of the endangered leatherbacks as California’s official marine reptile. In operation since 1980, the drift gill net fishery has long been under fire from environmentalists. While allowed under federal law, both Oregon and Washington have banned them along their coasts. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it was too early to comment on the potential suit, which would be filed under the Endangered Species Act. “We’re still evaluating it,” NOAA spokesman Jim Milburn said. In announcing the suit, environmentalists said they are concerned that two endangered sperm whales were caught by a drift gill net in December 2010. Based on,,,,,,,,Read More   http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_21483913/bay-area-enviros-target-use-drift-gill-nets

  • Drift gill nets are not allowed in the Monterey Bay, and are typically found off the coast of Southern California. The National Marine Fisheries Service also recently said it wanted to review expanding the swordfish fishery further into an area designated as critical habitat for the leatherback sea turtle.

    The National Marine Fisheries Services places observers on some boats. During the 2010-11 fishing season, drift gillnet fisheries caught 1,118 fish, sharks, dolphins and whales.

    They kept 362, with 66 returned to the sea dead, including several dolphins, 16 blue sharks and one sperm whale. The other whale was seriously wounded.

    Environmental groups are also concerned that acoustic "pings" used to ward off marine mammals did not work for sperm whales.

    "Not only did they take the species, but it disproved the mitigation measures they were using," Kilduff said.

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