Drift gillnets are a fairly ineffective method at capturing swordfish and thresher shark.
The nets are suspended like underwater curtains, a mile long and more than 600 feet wide, and anything that swims into them can get entangled.
In the deep sea waters off the California coast that’s meant everything from sea turtles to gray whales, as well as dozens of other species. Environmental groups call California’s drift gillnet fishing industry one of the nation’s deadliest catches, since more than 60 percent of what’s caught in the nets gets tossed away. They now have the images to lend drama to their statistics.
In February, the nonprofit Oceana obtained a treasure trove of photographs from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) in a public records request. The images — nearly 500 taken from 1997 to 2011— show a gruesome scene of hundreds of dead marine life entangled in nets. The images were obtained by NOAA observers who are by law stationed on fishing boats.