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CA Introduces Bill to Further Restrict Commercial Fishing: Here’s Why

The balance between protecting a resource and supporting an industry is a tough one to achieve.

Fishing Vessel off the coast of CaliforniaFishing Vessel off the coast of California; (photo/Shutterstock)
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In a move officials say will safeguard its marine ecosystems, California lawmakers introduced a bill on February 8, 2024, aimed at tightening regulations on commercial fishing along the West Coast. Championed by environmental advocates and fisheries experts, the proposed legislation marks a significant step forward in the state’s commitment to conservation and sustainability.

The bill seeks to address pressing concerns regarding overfishing and the depletion of key fish stocks in California’s waters by imposing stricter limits and regulations on commercial fishing activities. Proponents say the bill will promote the long-term health and resilience of marine ecosystems while ensuring the viability of fishing industries for future generations.

The bill, AB 2220, would completely ban gill and trammel nets by 2025 and would further impose bans on the take of any giant sea bass or great white sharks, regardless of the intended take. It also would require a neutral, third-party observer on board for all commercial fishing trips.

Assembly Bill 2220 Goals

Gill Nets
Gill nets set out to dry; (photo/Shutterstock)

Assembly Bill 2220 (AB 2220) emphasizes the need for science-based management practices that prioritize the preservation of biodiversity and the restoration of depleted fish populations. By incorporating the latest research and data on fishery dynamics and ecosystem health, policymakers aim to develop more effective strategies for sustainable fisheries management that take into account the complex interactions between species and their habitats.

“There are alternative methods of fishing proven to diminish harm on marine life and reduce bycatch while producing higher-quality seafood,” California Assemblyman and author of the bill, Steve Bennett (D), said. “AB 2220 aligns Southern California waters with Northern California by prohibiting gillnets in all ocean waters of the state, broadening protections for marine life, and encouraging sustainable practices for all who enjoy and make a living from our ocean.”

One of the other key provisions of the proposed legislation is the establishment of new quotas and catch limits for various fish species tailored to reflect their ecological importance and vulnerability to overexploitation. By setting clear targets for sustainable harvest levels, policymakers hope to prevent the collapse of critical fish populations and promote the recovery of depleted stocks over time.

The biggest issue with many of these conservation bills comes down to cost, and this one certainly isn’t immune to that.

“We understand the importance of sustainable fishing practices,” says Tom Miller, a representative of the California Fisheries Cooperative. “However, we need to carefully consider the economic impact on our fishermen and the entire seafood industry.”

Initial Thoughts

Overall, the introduction of AB 2220 represents what could be a milestone in California’s ongoing efforts to protect its coastal waters and marine biodiversity. Balancing the protection of the resource with the industry it supports is a tricky one.

Whether it will come to fruition is still yet to be seen, and if it’s even fiscally possible, it is a whole other bird’s nest of line to unravel.

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