Federal fishery managers denied a proposal this week to immediately shut down Southern California’s most controversial fishery in the event that wide-mesh gill nets accidentally kill a handful of certain marine mammals or sea turtle species.
The swordfish and thresher shark fishery will remain open, even if it kills several whales or sea turtles, the NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries decided.
The decision not to institute so-called hard caps on the fishery comes after a public review period initiated last year was extended to discuss the law proposed by the state’s Pacific Fishery Management Council in 2014.
For the few dozen fishers who still catch swordfish and thresher sharks off Southern California in deep-water drift gill nets, the decision brought a big sigh of relief.
“It’s a great feeling to know that NOAA is using science and not political pressure to decide this issue,” said longtime local fisherman David Haworth. “We have just a few people fighting against millions of environmentalists who think taking one of anything is too many: That would be great, but we have to feed the whole world.”
The decision was a blow to Oceana, The Pew Charitable Trusts and other conservation groups that have lobbied for years to close the fishery.
“We’re disappointed that NOAA Fisheries decided to abandon these plans. It’s a long time coming,” said Paul Shively, project director for The Pew Charitable Trusts. “We did a poll (in 2015) that showed overwhelming support with Californians to shut down the fishery.
“This still remains the most harmful fishery on…
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