First-Ever Undercover Footage Details Cruelty in California Fishing Industry

First-Ever Undercover Footage Details Cruelty in California Fishing Industry
iStock/Andrea Izzotti

An undercover investigation led by a coalition of animal rights groups including Mercy for Animals, Turtle Island Restoration Network, SeaLegacy, and Sharkwater, shows systemic cruelty in California’s fishing industry.

The undercover investigations targeted driftnets, a common fishing practice that can often catch unintended animals including protected species such as dolphins, whales, and sea lions. These animals can become tangled in the nets, suffocate, or be killed by fishermen.
Graphic images in the video include dolphins and sea lions drowning in the net, fish suffocating, entangled seabirds, and sharks, stingrays, and other fish being cut apart while still alive.
“The commercial fishing industry’s use of driftnets results in the suffocation and torture of billions of conscious, feeling sea animals each year,” says Matt Rice, president of Mercy For Animals. “It’s time to abolish the use of large-scale driftnets in all U.S. waters and end the cruelty they inflict on sea life.”

The organizations are urging Senators to enact protective legislation aimed at reducing the use of driftnets and the animals harmed and killed as a result. The coalition is also urging California’s legislature to pass Senate Bill 1017, which would move the state away from the use of large-scale driftnets.

“For every one swordfish caught by the driftnet fishery, an estimated seven other marine animals are entangled and killed,” the groups note.

Driftnet fishing is already banned by the United Nations and several countries. The practice is no longer in use on the East Coast, Oregon, or Washington.

“Driftnets are deathnets,” says Cassie Burdyshaw, advocacy and policy director at Turtle Island Restoration Network. “Less harmful fishing methods have existed for years. We don’t have to kill endangered sea turtles and whales just to put swordfish on our plates.”

“These nets are a mile long and hang 100 feet deep, and they’re designed to kill everything in their path,” says Paul Nicklen, co-founder and expedition lead for SeaLegacy. “If a dolphin, whale, turtle, swordfish, thresher shark, or mako shark swims into that net, they’re going to die. It’s out of sight, out of mind. Ocean wildlife and endangered species are continually harmed or killed by this dangerous fishery and it’s time to end the slaughter.”

The campaign is urging citizens to contact their Senators and ask for their support in banning driftnets.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.