Setnets are nearly invisible curtain-like fishing gear fixed to the bottom designed to entangle fish or catch them by the gills.
Intended for halibut, seabass and in some cases sharks, these nets are outdated and destructive to California wildlife. Dolphins, whales, and other marine mammals are being mercilessly killed off the coast of California by a fishing practice intended to catch swordfish, but which indiscriminately scoops up other species. Decades of management strategies have led to the ban of these gillnets in Central California and state waters. In these areas, populations of vulnerable species have rebounded. California set gillnets are still in use in federal waters in Southern California, where a more selective hook-and-line fishing method for California halibut and white seabass is already well-established.
Only 39 estimated participants who fish with set gillnets are left, primarily targeting halibut and white sea bass. Sixty-four percent of animals caught with set gillnets are tossed overboard, translating to a conservative estimate of over 230,000 animals thrown overboard from 2007 to 2021, with over 50% dead before hitting the water.
Although commercial fish landings data indicate the number of discarded animals during this period could be as high as 2 million. Set gillnets catch 125 different species, and only 17 species are primarily kept and sold. Nearly three of every four sharks, rays, and skates caught are tossed overboard in the set gillnet fishery. California sealions in particular suffer, with a 100% observed mortality.
Set gillnets are the primary threat to juvenile great white sharks in their nursery grounds off California. White sharks play an important ecosystem role, and their population is still at low numbers and in recovery.
We can stop the needless slaughter of sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, and other marine wildlife by these nets off the coast of California.
The California Fish and Wildlife Commission is Meeting July 20 to discuss this harmful fishery. Urge the California Fish and Game Commission to declare the bycatch in the California Set Gillnet Fishery unacceptable.
Click the button below, copy and paste the email below with Evaluation of bycatch in the California halibut set gillnet fishery in support of the fishery management review in subject.
CONTACT CA DFW at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Dear Director Miller-Henson and the California Fish and Wildlife Commissioners. I am extremely concerned about the amount of bycatch in the California Set Gillnet Fishery. Please consider this harmful bycatch as unacceptable and protect our marine life by eliminating setnets and substituting for hook and line in the halibut fishery.
Sea birds, marine mammals and especially sharks are caught and drowned in this harmful gear. The Soupin shark ( tope shark) is now considered to be Critically Endangered. Protected white sharks and others like soupfin (Tope) and blue sharks are unfortunately a common capture for the California Set Gillnets, and many of these sharks are discarded after being caught.
Seabirds can become entangled in the set gillnet fishery and often drown before being discarded overboard. With proper management, this is an avoidable consequence of this type of fishing gear.
There are more boats fishing for California halibut using less harmful and more targeted hook and line than those using setnets.
Thank you for your efforts on this matter, commissioners. Bycatch in set gillnets must be handled. Please declare this bycatch as unacceptably high as soon as possible.”
Protecting sharks and rays from extinction is our mission, and we express profound concern about the detrimental impacts of bycatch of thousands of sharks in the set gillnet fishery. This fishery has been responsible for the loss of large numbers of critically endangered Soupfin sharks, protected white sharks and other species discarded as bycatch.
We ask that the Commission take firm action to protect marine wildlife including vulnerable species while supporting sustainable fishing practices.
National Marine Fisheries Service. Accessed 2022. California Set Gillnet Observer Program, Observed Catch 2007-01-01 to 2017-12-31. Available: https://media.fisheries.noaa.gov/2022- 01/setnet-catch-summaries-2007-2010-2013-2017.pdf
*observer data is recorded by number of animals
Oceana and The Turtle Island Restoration Network THE NET CONSEQUENCE: Impacts of Set Gillnets on California Ocean Biodiversity