The capture and killing of endangered sea turtles, whales, sharks as well as hundreds of other marine mammals and thousands of unwanted fish is routine in the California drift gillnet fishery.
Federal proposals to expand the fishery into the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area remain highly unpopular. Letters and petitions opposing the expansion were registered with the Pacific Fishery Management Council. See the link here to the swordfish item and public comment.
Despite these concerns, the state of California decided not to halt the expansion but lead efforts seek more information and to delay a decision until 2014. See Press Release here.
While the state's action to derail the federal fishery managers plans to open the PLCA right away and with little science to support it is a step in the right direction, the action leaves the door open to expanding the fishery into leatherback habitat. It means that more time, energy and resources will be required to fight back the expansion. And it means that California may be weakening its stance on the gillnet fishery and also deadly longline fishing which it has prohibited along the coast since 1989.
It seems that the rise of "sustainable" seafood programs is leading to the demise of strong fishery policy.
Download TIRN's extensive comments to the Council on the CA drift gillnet fishery.
Read more about the history of the fishery here.