SUFFICIENT DATA EXISTS TO SUPPORT
A BAN ON DRIFTNET FISHING
A great deal of data has been collected on the various driftnet fisheries
over the past thirty years. Researchers and observers from several countries,
including Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Taiwan, monitored many hundreds
of nightly driftnet operations. Many of these data collecting programs are
enumerated in this volume. While data was being collected, stocks vulnerable
to driftnet fishing continued to decline. Data on the Atlantic salmon driftnet
fishery provided sufficient information to cause the Atlantic salmon states
of Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Norway, and Canada to ban the use
of nylon driftnets within their 12 mile territorial seas. Data from the
North Pacific salmon driftnet fishery caused the INPFC to severely restrict
the use of driftnet technology to harvest salmon. Data collected by Australia
on the Taiwanese driftnet fishery in the Arafur and Timor Seas convinced
Australia to ban driftnets larger than 2.5 km from its EEZ in 1986. Data
collected by Japan and New Zealand on the Japanese driftnet fishery in the
Tasman Sea convinced New Zealand to totally ban driftnet fishing from its
EEZ in 1989. Data from the tuna, billfish and squid driftnet fisheries collected
in the 1970s and early 1980s by the Japanese Fisheries Agency and transmitted
to the INPFC provided the basis for the United States Western Pacific Regional
Fisheries Management Council (WPRFMC) to take action in 1986 to ban driftnet
fishing from the EEZ surrounding the Hawaiian archipelago. The ban took
effect in 1987 (WPRFMC 1989a).
The sum total of data collected in the South Pacific region through 1988
convinced the representatives of South Pacific governments, meeting in Fiji
in November 1988, that driftnet fishing (1) threatened the long-term sustainability
of the South Pacific albacore stocks, (2) was a serious threat to the South
Pacific ecosystem because of the by-catch, and (3) was a serious hazard
to navigation. The First Consultation on Arrangements for South Pacific
Albacore Fisheries Management agreed on a plan of action that included:
- an embargo on acceptance of driftnet caught fish by South
Pacific canneries and cold stores,
- a ban on transshipment of driftnet caught fish in the EEZs within the
- a refusal to assist support vessels (e.g. carrier and supply vessels)
involved in driftnet fishing (SPF 1991).
Data on the destructiveness of even small-scale driftnet fishing convinced
the United States South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management
Councils (SAFMC and GMFMC) to ban the use of driftnets larger than 1000
yards (914 meters) in the EEZ for all coastal migratory pelagic species
managed under the mackerel fishery management plan in 1990. The councils
had requested that driftnets be prohibited in 1987, but driftnetting was
allowed to continue in 1988 and 1989 while the plan was being amended, to
the detriment of the king mackerel fishery. During April 1989, drift nets
caught 165,462 pounds of king mackerel in 133 trips, a factor that "contributed
to localized overfishing and intensified conflicts with traditional hook
and line fishermen" (GMFMC and SAFMC 1990). The two Councils concluded
that the short run benefits of allowing driftnetting to continue did not
exceed the long term costs to other affected commercial and recreational
fishermen, and voted to ban the practice before the 1990 season commenced.
The councils found that
1. "Drift gillnets are an indiscriminate harvest method
which (a) results in substantial wasted by-catch of unregulated species
such as sharks and jacks and (b) results in waste of regulated species .
. . .
2. Use of drift gillnets necessitates deployment of excessive amounts of
passively fished gear for long soak periods, accentuating all other problems.
3. There is a problem with lost gear which results in ghost net fishing.
4. There is a likelihood of habitat damage from gear that encounters the
5. Drift gillnets produce an inferior quality compared to hook and line
6. Excessive drift gillnet pressure . . . has resulted in localized over
fishing and intensifies conflicts with traditional hook and line fishermen,
both recreational and commercial" (GMFMC and SAFMC 1990).
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