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 region, and

- 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 bottom.

5. Drift gillnets produce an inferior quality compared to hook and line gear.

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).

Return to Table of Contents

Return to Earthtrust's DriftNetwork Page