A new bill introduced in the California state Assembly would substantially limit gillnet fishing in the state, and end hauls of certain species of fish. The Department of Fish and Wildlife would need to adopt and enforce regulations that would require any commercial fishing vessel operating with a validly issued permit from the state to carry an independent third-party observer onboard the vessel while operating within state fisheries. 

The bill also states that all incidental take exceptions to catching giant sea bass and great white sharks would also end. A total ban would be placed on catching these two species commercially. Lastly, the use of gill nets and trammel nets would be banned entirely from all California ocean waters beginning Jan. 1, 2025.

Assembly Bill 2220 (AB 2220) was introduced by Assemblyman Steve Bennett (D-Ojai), who wrote the bill claiming that gillnet fishing is generally seen as destructive, with the nets catching everything, including endangered species. Bennett hopes this bill will improve seafood quality in the state, with less waste and more fish being made available without gillnets.

Bennett launched his bid for the Assembly to address climate change effectively. His first efforts included improving the storage capacity of renewable energy. He has worked on a proposal affecting Marine Protected Areas, agriculture bills, and single-use plastic consumption.

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

AB 2220 did not receive backing or opposition from any other lawmakers but got approval from environmental groups for extending protections for marine life. Many Sacramento officials have stressed that they want to see the costs associated with AB 2220 before deciding. No specific figures have been shown on how much the state and local counties will lose if the bill goes into effect. 

“A lot of people would be for fishing preservation, but this sort of bill raised a lot of monetary questions. If this bill costs a lot or takes away a lot of commercial fishing, you know, that will add to the state budget woes. We’re $68 billion in the hole. We need a price tag on this one,” a Capital staffer, Dana, told the California Globe, “There are many lawmakers who would be hesitant to sign a bill like this, especially in uncertain times we are in now.”

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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