Lawsuit Seeks to Protect Humpback Whales From California Gillnet Entanglements

SAN FRANCISCO— On Oct. 27, the Center for Biological Diversity announced they had sued NOAA Fisheries to force protection for endangered Pacific humpback whales from entanglements in California drift gillnets. According to federal reports, an estimated 12 Pacific humpbacks were caught in the California drift gillnet fishery over the last two fishing seasons.

The lawsuit noted that the fishery’s harm to endangered humpback whales violates the Endangered Species Act. The fishery uses mile-long hanging nets that are left in the ocean overnight to catch large fish like Pacific bluefin tuna, swordfish, and thresher sharks. As the lawsuit reported, NOAA Fisheries failed to sufficiently investigate the fishery’s impact on the humpback populations listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2016.


To remedy these legal violations, the Center recommends that the Service close the area in Southern California where two humpback whales were recently entangled and confirm the fishery is not threatening the species’ continued existence.


According to the Center, fishing gear entanglements are a leading threat to endangered migratory humpbacks along the West Coast, where 48,521 square nautical miles were designated as critical habitats for the species in April 2021.


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