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Breaking! California Legislature Passes Bill to Phase Out Deadly “Driftnets”

Just months after Mercy For Animals and the Ban Death Nets coalition released shocking undercover footage exposing the commercial driftnet fishing industry, California lawmakers passed Senate bill 1017 to phase out the use of the nets in the state.

Authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), along with over 15 co-authors, the bill is set to phase out the use of swordfish driftnets over a four-year period after the creation of a transition program, funded through public-private partnerships, to assist fishers who will be required to stop using the nets.

The bill passed nearly unanimously in both the state senate and assembly. Governor Brown has until September 30 to sign this historic legislation into law.

In a statement, Senator Ben Allen said:
These mile-long nets are deadly and destructive. Finally we have found a way to phase out their use and transition to a more humane alternative—without harming the commercial fishing industry in the process. This is a significant win for our ocean and for the California economy. We look forward to the governor signing it into law.
California is the last remaining U.S. state to allow driftnets, which have already been phased out off the U.S. East Coast and banned by Oregon and Washington states, the United Nations, and countries around the world.

Driftnets used in federal waters off the coast of California can stretch over a mile long and hang up to 100 feet deep into the ocean, indiscriminately trapping and killing numerous animals each year. It’s estimated that for every one targeted fish caught by the driftnet fishing industry, seven other marine animals are killed.

In the past decade alone, thousands of marine animals have been killed by the few remaining driftnet boats operating off California’s coast, including endangered and protected animals, such as sperm whales and sea turtles. The cruelty is unimaginable.

MFA’s hidden-camera exposé shows workers repeatedly bludgeoning sharks over the head with a baseball bat, sharks viciously cut apart and stabbed while still alive and able to feel pain, and animals left to slowly suffocate on the decks of commercial fishing boats.

See for yourself.


SB 1017’s passage marks major progress for oceans and the animals who live in them, but we’re not finished yet. MFA is closely following the progression of this bill, and we’re going to need your help to get it signed by Governor Brown. If you live in California, please contact the governor today. And if you live outside California, please tell your representatives in Congress to support a federal bill to ban cruel driftnets.

Remember, the best way to protect fish and other marine animals is to leave them off your plate. Learn more about switching to a compassionate plant-based diet to prevent cruelty to all animals used for food. Then check out Gardein’s fishless filets and crabless cakes, and click here for compassionate sea-inspired recipes.