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The long-term effectiveness of acoustic pingers in reducing marine mammal bycatch was assessed in the California swordfish and thresher shark drift gillnet fishery. Bycatch was observed at sea between 1990 and 2009, with acoustic pingers being present from 1996 to 2009. Bycatch rates of cetaceans decreased by around 50% when pingers were present; the decrease was mostly driven by common dolphins. Beaked whales have not been incidentally caught since 1995. Pinger failure occurred in less than 4% of observed sets. Cetacean bycatch was 10 times higher in sets where more than one pinger failed. There was no evidence of habituation to pingers by cetaceans. Bycatch rates of California sea lions was almost double in sets with pingers than without, leading the authors to examine the "dinner bell" effect of pingers. Depredation of swordfish by sea lions was not linked to pinger use, instead the best predictors were total swordfish catch, month and area fished, and nighttime light use.