From the Editor: Fishing Restrictions Bill

The future of commercial gillnet fishing and the catching of giant sea bass in California are now in doubt, following legislation proposed by a state Assembly member in February that would restrict certain types of fishing in state waters.

Assembly Bill 2220 would do three things: completely ban commercial fishing for sea bass, eliminating current exceptions; ban the use of gill nets, also eliminating current exceptions, and mandate that commercial fishing vessels operating with a state permit carry an independent third-party observer onboard while operating within state fisheries.

If passed and signed into law, the proposed legislation, which was drafted by Assemblyman Steve Bennett (D-Ventura), could have a sizable impact – financially and in other ways – on the state’s commercial fishing industry.

Existing law prohibits the taking of giant sea bass for any purpose, except as provided, including that not more than one fish per vessel may be possessed or sold if taken incidentally in commercial fishing operations by gill or trammel net.

AB 2220 would delete the incidental take exception regarding the prohibition on the taking of giant sea bass.

Existing state law also prohibits the taking of white sharks for commercial purposes, except the incidental take of such sharks by commercial fishing operations using set gill nets, drift gill nets or round haul nets.

The bill would delete the above authorization, thereby prohibiting the incidental take of white sharks by commercial fishing operations using set gill nets, drift gill nets or round haul nets.

Another proposed change is regarding a state law prohibiting the use of gill nets or trammel nets used for commercial purposes except under a revocable, nontransferable permit issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Existing law prohibits the department from issuing any new gill net or trammel net permits but authorizes the department to renew an existing gill net or trammel permit. The law also authorizes a person who has a valid, existing permit to transfer the permit to any existing person.

AB 2220, however, would prohibit the department from renewing an existing, valid gill net or trammel net permit for anyone other than the person whose name appears on the permit. The bill also would prohibit any transfer of an existing, valid gill net or trammel net permit.

Regarding existing California that law bans gill nets and trammel nets from being used in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the bill would, starting Jan. 1, 2025, apply the above prohibition to all ocean waters of the state.

Lastly, the bill would give the California Department of Fish and Wildlife authority to require third-party observers on state fisheries to count and record everything that’s caught, filling in perceived information gaps.

This, according to the legislation’s author, would enable California to better manage set gillnets and other state commercial fisheries, benefiting its ability to ensure resilient fisheries.

Bennett’s motive behind the legislation, he said, is to “reduce injury and death to a suite of marine life in the state’s set gillnet fishery, while removing exemptions in current law that allow these nets to catch and keep protected species.”

“There are alternative methods of fishing proven to diminish harm on marine life (and) reduce bycatch, while producing higher quality seafood,” he said in a statement, without elaborating on those methods.

The legislation’s pathway to passage may be difficult.

As of early March, AB 2220 has not received any backing or opposition by any other lawmakers, and some elected officials have said that they would like to see estimates regarding costs and the effect it would have on the fishing industry before taking a stance.

No figures have been released yet on just how much the state and local counties stand to lose if the bill becomes law.

If and when there are any new developments regarding AB 2220, we’ll let you know. The full text of the bill can be seen at


Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at (619) 313-4351 or