Deadly Catch

Mile-long fishing nets used to catch swordfish off the California coast have entangled and killed thousands of other sea creatures, according to an analysis by the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit. The fishing gear, known as drift gillnets, have unintentionally strangled dolphins, whales, sharks, sea lions and other marine life over the past few decades.

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Over the past three decades, fisherman have only kept about 23 percent of what their drift gillnets caught off the California coast, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Sea life unintentionally entangled in the nets, including endangered and threatened species like whales and sea turtles, are often killed. The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit obtained 28 years’ worth of government records to calculate how often marine life is thrown back into the ocean. The data covers the period from July 1, 1990 to Jan. 31, 2018.

Whales

Killed by drift gillnets

Last 5 years
5

Last 28 years
456

Sea Lions

Killed by drift gillnets

Last 5 years
31

Last 28 years
1,218

Dolphins

Killed by drift gillnets

Last 5 years
200

Last 28 years
4,135

Sharks

Killed by drift gillnets

Last 5 years
1,247

Last 28 years
87,929

Sea Turtles

Killed by drift gillnets

Last 5 years
0

Last 28 years
136