Catching Swordfish Without Harming Other Marine Life Off The West Coast
Pacific council approval of deep-set buoy gear would lessen use of gillnets
A growing number of Americans care about the way their seafood is caught, and swordfish is no exception. That care sometimes turns to alarm when people learn that a significant amount of the marine wildlife caught by drift gillnets in the swordfish fishery off the California coast is discarded—usually dead or seriously injured. The victims of this indiscriminate fishing method include whales and iconic marine mammals, sea turtles, and recreationally important species such as marlin. That may be why 87 percent of Californians support a transition away from this method of catching swordfish.
That’s something fishery managers could do right now, because there is a better, less wasteful way to catch swordfish: deep-set buoy gear. And when the Pacific Fishery Management Council meets next week, it can move this gear one step closer to authorization.
Deep-Set Buoy Gear Offers a Better Way to Catch Swordfish
Innovative fishing gear minimizes injury and death for whales, sea turtles, and other ocean life
Learn more and take action: pewtrusts.org/swordfish
Unlike drift gillnets, which are used at night when many species congregate near the ocean surface, buoy gear is used during the day and targets swordfish at depths where they are active but other species largely are not. It’s also worth noting that deep-set buoy gear is actively tended by fishermen, who immediately release the occasional unintentional catch while it is still alive. And swordfish caught with buoy gear are quickly brought on board and put on ice, giving fishermen a better product that demands a higher price.
Six years of research and fishing trials with deep-set buoy gear have surprised even its critics. The equipment has proved effective for catching swordfish with minimal bycatch of or injury to whales, sea turtles, and other nontarget ocean life. The method, which has earned the support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service, is being met with diminishing skepticism among commercial fisherman as they see how well deep-set buoy gear works.
There is nothing to gain by delaying the authorization of this promising new method of catching swordfish on the West Coast. The research has been done. The results are in. Join us in urging the PFMC to take action toward approval of deep-set buoy gear.
Paul Shively directs Pacific Ocean conservation campaigns for The Pew Charitable Trusts.