PACIFIC DRIFT GILLNET OBSERVER PROGRAM
The National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Region, Fisheries Observer Branch
began fielding mandatory observers aboard the Pacific drift gillnet fishery targeting
swordfish and thresher shark in July 1990. This is a Category I Fishery under the Marine Mammal
Authorization Permit Program established by the
Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Observed catch and bycatch interactions include California sea lions (Zalophus
californianus), northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), common dolphin
(Delphinus delphis), Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus), Dall's porpoise (Phocoenoides
dalli), Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens), northern right whale
dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis), sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), short-finned pilot
whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), various beaked whales, and sea turtles, especially
leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea).
The program is responsible for fielding drift gillnet observers, obtaining data on
protected species take specifically incidental marine mammal take, collect fishing effort,
tally fishes and invertebrates caught by species, and processing selected specimens for
life history information. The Southwest Fisheries
Science Center, La Jolla Laboratory receives observer data to calculate estimates and
produce technical reports.
In 1996, the Pacific drift gillnet observer program was transferred to a private
contractor who is responsible for furnishing the necessary personnel, gear, equipment,
services, transportation, and facilities.