Proceedings of the 20th Annual Trinational Sardine and Small Pelagics Forum (TSF) held on December…
About the Species
Commercial fishing for Pacific sardines is prohibited because the population is estimated to be below a precautionary level set by managers.
Significantly below target population levels. A rebuilding plan is in place.
The fishery is closed because the population is estimated to be below a precautionary level set by managers.
The gear used to catch Pacific sardines is used at the surface and has little impact on habitat.
Bycatch is low because gear used is selective.
- According to the 2019 stock assessment, Pacific sardine is overfished, but is not subject to overfishing based on 2020 catch data. Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.
- The population size varies naturally, which can lead to large fluctuations (boom-bust cycles) in abundance and catch.
- A precautionary measure is built into sardine management to stop directed fishing when the population falls below 150,000 metric tons. The latest population estimate is below that level, and managers have closed the fishery.
- Pacific sardines are small.
- They are blue-green on the back and have white flanks with one to three sets of dark spots along the middle.
- Pacific sardines are fast growing and can grow to more than 12 inches long.
- They can live up to 13 years, but usually not past 5.
- They reproduce at age 1 or 2, depending on conditions.
- Pacific sardines spawn multiple times per season.
- Females release eggs that are fertilized externally and hatch in about 3 days.
- Pacific sardines feed on plankton (tiny floating plants and animals).
- They are prey for many fish, marine mammals, and seabirds.
Where They Live
- Southeastern Alaska to Baja California, Mexico.
- NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the Pacific sardine fishery.
- Managed under the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan:
- Catch limits are in place to prevent overfishing.
- Catch limit is allocated among three fishing seasons throughout the year.
- Permits are needed to harvest Pacific sardines.
- Gear restrictions are in place to reduce bycatch.
- Catch is monitored through logbooks and observers.
- The fishery was closed in 2015, and has not reopened.
- In 2014, more than 23,000 metric tons were harvested and were valued at $8.85 million.
- Round haul nets are used to catch Pacific sardines.
- Habitat and bycatch impacts are minimal because the gear is used at the surface around dense schools of fish, which usually contain only one species.