Drift Gillnets Caused These 10 Disturbing Ocean Animal Deaths You Can’t Unsee

Oceana knew that drift gillnets in California — mile-long fishing nets floating below the water’s surface off the coast — are catching and needlessly killing ocean animals of all kinds. To expose that truth, we searched for photographic proof: NOAA responded to our request for photos with hundreds of images.

1. 1. This California sea lion was entangled and drowned in a drift gillnet.

Via NOAA

See those marks along its body? That’s from being pressed against the netting. The drift gillnets in California are meant for swordfish and thresher sharks, but unlucky animals like sea lions can become captured by the long fishing nets.

2. This is what a California sea lion should look like:

Via Oceana

Swimming freely through the water. They’re very social animals and can form groups of several hundred individuals.

Find out more about drift gillnets and what you can do to help stop the needless killing.

3. 2.This Risso’s Dolphin lies dead onboard a vessel after being removed from a drift gillnet.

Via NOAA

4. This is what a Risso’s dolphin should look like:

Via NOAA

Risso’s dolphins typically reach 10 feet in length and weigh 600 to 1,100 lbs. They’re the biggest cetaceans to be called “dolphins.”

Add your voice to support banning drift gillnets off the California coast.

5. 3. These Dall’s porpoises lie lifeless after being drowned in a California drift gillnet.

Via NOAA

The nets entangle these creatures, cutting into their bodies and rendering them unable to surface for air.

6. This is what a Dall’s porpoise should look like:

Via Wikimedia Commons

These animals can swim up to 35 miles an hour.

7. 4. These short beaked common dolphins were killed in California drift gillnets.

Via NOAA

9. This short beaked common dolphin’s tail had to be severed to remove it from a drift gillnet.

Via NOAA

10. This is what a short beaked common dolphin should look like:

Via NOAA

They perform spectacular aerial shows in their natural habitats.

Sign Oceana’s petition to ban drift gillnets off the California coast.

11. 5. This salmon shark killed as bycatch has its fins cut off.

Via NOAA

12. This is what a salmon shark should look like:

Via NOAA

As an apex predator, salmon sharks feed on salmon, squid, herring and other fish.

13. 6. This unlucky Pacific loggerhead was captured and drowned in a California drift gillnet.

Via NOAA

14. This is what a Pacific Loggerhead turtle should look like:

Via NOAA

Pacific loggerheads make a long journey over 7,500 miles between nesting beaches in Japan and feeding grounds off the coast of Mexico. Most spend their time in California waters swimming through the water in search of their next meal.

15. 7. This juvenile Northern elephant seal lies dead on the deck of a drift gillnet boat.

Via NOAA

16. This is what a baby Northern Elephant seal should look like:

Via NOAA

While their core breeding areas are in California and Mexico, they have an enormous range, traveling as far as the ocean waters off Alaska and Hawaii to feed.

Find out what you can do to stop the deadly practice of drift gillnet fishing in California.

17. 8. This gray whale is completely entrapped in a drift gillnet.

Via NOAA

This fishing net is capable of snaring and killing an animal that weighs in around 30 to 40 tons (27,300 to 36,300 kg).

18. This is what a gray whale should look like:

Via Marine Photobank

Each year gray whales make a 5,000 to 6,000 mile migration.

19. 9. This short-finned pilot whale hangs lifelessly in a California drift gillnet.

Via NOAA

20. This is what a short-finned pilot whale should look like:

Via NOAA

Short finned pilot whales can reach sizes up to 24 feet and 6,600 pounds. Only 760 short-finned pilot whales are estimated to live off the U.S. West Coast. They’re very sociable, found in groups of 10 to 30, but rarely seen by people.

21. 10. This long-beaked common dolphin was killed in a drift gillnet set off the California coast.

Via NOAA

22. This is what a long-beaked common dolphin should look like:

Via NOAA

Long-beaked common dolphins sometimes live in pods of hundreds to even thousands.

23. Sign Oceana’s petition to ban drift gillnets off the California coast.


Help us stop drift gillnets from needlessly killing more marine animals. With cleaner gear types available, it’s time to remove these “walls of death.”

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