“Coastal Pelagic Species” (CPS) on the West Coast include Pacific sardine, Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel, northern anchovy, market squid, and krill. CPS live in the water column, as opposed to living near the sea floor, at depths from the surface to 1,000 meters (547 fathoms) deep, typically above the continental shelf. NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) oversee the management of CPS in U.S. federal waters off the West Coast. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife co-manages the market squid fishery off California with NOAA Fisheries and the Council. The primary commercial fishery for CPS is off the coast of California (south of 39 degrees North latitude), however, fishermen in Oregon and Washington also harvest small amounts of CPS.
West Coast CPS play an important role in the California Current ecosystem as a food source for marine mammals, sea birds, and larger fish, and support various commercial and recreational fisheries.
For information on CPS stock abundance, population trends, and historical fishery landings, see the current Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation Report.
For background information on CPS biology, visit the Pacific Fishery Management Council webpage, as well as our Species pages for Pacific Sardine, Pacific Mackerel, Northern Anchovy, and Market Squid.
Recent Management Highlights
- 2020-2021 Pacific Sardine Harvest Specifications and Management Measures: The purpose of this rulemaking is to establish harvest specifications and management measures for the northern subpopulation of Pacific sardine for the 2020-2021 fishing year, which begins July 1, 2020, and ends June 30, 2021.
- Amendment 17: The purpose of Amendment 17 is to remove the pre-specified incidental landing limit that would become effective for live bait were a stock managed under the FMP to become overfished. There are no implementing regulations for Amendment 17.
- 2019-2020 Pacific Sardine Harvest Specifications and Management Measures: The purpose of this rulemaking is to establish harvest specifications and management measures for the northern subpopulation of Pacific sardine for the 2019-2020 fishing year, which begins July 1, 2019, and ends June 30, 2020.
- Multi-Year Harvest Specifications for the Central Subpopulation of Northern Anchovy: The purpose of this rulemaking is to establish a new overfishing limit, acceptable biological catch, and annual catch limit for the central subpopulation of Northern anchovy.
For more information on Coastal Pelagic Species management, contact the West Coast Region’s Coastal Pelagic Species Branch at 562.980.4034
For questions related to Coastal Pelagic Species permits, please visit NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Permits website or contact our Permits Coordinator at 562.980.4238
Subscribe to the Coastal Pelagic Species Email Group (link coming soon) to receive public notices by email
Recreational Fishing Regulations
Commercial Fishing Regulations
The Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) commercial fishery is a multi-species fishery where fishermen typically switch between various CPS depending on market conditions, availability of the target CPS stocks to the fleet (i.e., distance offshore), and relative abundance levels. The CPS fishery primarily operates off of southern and central California. The fishery targets minor amounts of CPS off Oregon and Washington.
The CPS fishery consists of four major sectors:
- Primary directed
- Live bait
- Minor directed
Primary directed: The primary directed fishery consists of 58 vessels enrolled in the Limited Entry program (i.e., requires a Federal permit to participate). These vessels operate off the California coast south of 39 degrees North latitude (approximately Point Arena, CA).
Live bait: The live bait fishery is primarily in southern California where Pacific sardine and northern anchovy are targeted as live bait for use in various recreational fisheries. Northern anchovy is also targeted off the Washington coast for live bait in the commercial albacore fishery.
Minor directed: The minor directed fishery consists of small, artisanal vessels that target very small amounts of CPS for use as dead bait or to sell to restaurants.
Tribal: The tribal CPS fishery includes tribal commercial fishermen who have a federally-recognized treaty right to fish for federally-managed CPS in their "usual and accustomed" fishing areas. Currently, the only tribe that targets CPS is the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington.
CPS are commonly caught incidentally with other CPS, but are also caught incidentally in some non-CPS fisheries (e.g., Pacific sardine are caught in the Pacific whiting fishery).
CPS are primarily caught using "round haul" gear such as purse seine nets, drum seines, lampara nets, and dip nets. A typical purse seine net measures 185 fathoms long, 22 fathoms deep, and 1,600 meshes deep with 1 1/4 inch mesh.
CPS finfish are sold around the world in several product forms. For example, Pacific mackerel are typically sold to Asian, European, Middle Eastern, and Baltic markets for human consumption. Pacific sardine are exported largely for canning for human consumption, high value table consumption products, and long-line bait. Increasingly, a small percent (less than 5%) of CPS are sold as pet food or tuna feed.
Primary Fishing Ports
The major West Coast processors and buyers of CPS finfish are generally located in six ports in three main fishing areas:
- southern California (San Pedro/Terminal Island and Ventura),
- central California (Monterey and Moss Landing), and
- Pacific Northwest/Columbia River area (Astoria Oregon and Westport Washington).
Fishing takes place near these ports with essentially no fishing taking place between San Francisco and the Columbia River/Astoria Oregon.
The ex-vessel markets for market squid are mainly in the Los Angeles, Santa Barbara-Ventura, and Monterey port areas.
Rules and Regulations
- Federal Register Rules and Notices - Open for Comment
- Federal Register Rules and Notices - All Rules & Notices
- Federal Fishing Regulations
- State Fishing Regulations California | Oregon | Washington
Quotas/Specifications and Management Measures
Pacific sardine, 2020-2021 Fishing Year
Because this year’s biomass estimate is below the value of the cutoff parameter (150,000 metric tons), there will be no primary directed fishery for the 2020-2021 Pacific sardine fishing year. Pacific sardine may be harvested in the live bait fishery, minor directed fishery, as incidental catch in other fisheries, or as part of exempted fishing permit activities. All catch will be counted against the annual catch limit (ACL).
- Commercial Harvest Guideline: 0 metric tons (mt)
- ACL: 4,288 mt
Management Measures for the Pacific sardine 2020-2021 Fishing Year
- If landings in the live bait fishery reach 2,500 mt, NOAA Fisheries will impose a 1-mt trip limit on retention of Pacific sardine in the live bait fishery.
- A 20 percent (by weight) incidental catch allowance per landing will be applied to other CPS primary directed commercial fisheries (e.g., Pacific mackerel).
- A 2 metric ton per trip incidental catch allowance will apply to non-CPS fisheries.
- All catch will be subject to an annual catch target (ACT) of 4,000 mt. If the 4,000 mt ACT is harvested by all fishing sectors combined, then NOAA Fisheries will impose a 1-mt trip limit on Pacific sardine caught as live bait, and a 1-mt trip limit on incidentally-caught Pacific sardine when caught while targeting other CPS.
Pacific mackerel, 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Fishing Years:
- Commercial Harvest Guideline: 11,109 mt
- ACT: 10,109 mt
- Commercial Harvest Guideline: 7,950 mt
- ACT: 6,950 mt
If the fishery attains the ACT in either fishing season, the directed fishery will close, reserving the 1,000-mt difference between the harvest guideline and ACT as a set-aside for incidental landings in other CPS fisheries and other sources of mortality.
Current CPS harvest specifications for Pacific mackerel are also published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 660.511 (i)-(j).
Central subpopulation of Northern anchovy:
ACL: 23,573 mt
Northern subpopulation of Northern anchovy:
ACL: [Not yet published]
ACL: [Not yet published]
0 mt (harvest is prohibited)
ACLs for the central subpopulation of Northern anchovy, the northern subpopulation of Northern anchovy, and jack mackerel are also published in the CFR at 660.511(k).
Visit the PacFIN website for current CPS landings.
See the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website for annual market squid harvest specifications and management measures.
Subsistence Fishing Regulations
Stocks in the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) are classified under the following management categories: actively managed, monitored, and prohibited harvest species.
- Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax)
- Pacific (chub) mackerel (Scomber japonicas)
- Northern anchovy, central and northern subpopulations (Engraulis mordax)
- Market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens)
- Jack mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus)
- Krill or Euphausiids (8 dominant species)
- Euphausia pacifica
- Thysanoessa spinifera
- Nyctiphanes simplex
- Nematocelis difficilis
- Thyanoessa gregaria
- Euphausia recurva
- Euphausia gibboides
- Euphausia eximia
The CPS FMP includes a management framework designed to react quickly to changes in the fisheries and stocks, with the Pacific Fishery Management Council's (Council) CPS Management Team providing advice on the classification changes in accordance with fishery and stock dynamics.
The purpose of active and monitored management is to use available agency resources in the most efficient and effective manner while satisfying goals and objectives of the FMP. The distinction enables managers and scientists to concentrate efforts on stocks and segments of the CPS fishery that need greatest attention or where the most significant benefits might be expected.
- Active management is characterized by periodic stock assessments or adjustments of target harvest levels.
- Monitored management involves tracking landing against respective annual catch limits and qualitative comparison to available abundance data, but without periodic stock assessments or likely annual adjustments to target harvest levels.
Species in both categories may be subject to management measures such as catch allocation, gear regulations, closed areas, closed seasons, or other forms of active management.
Under the CPS FMP, the CPS fishery is administratively divided into a limited entry fishery (i.e., requiring federal permits in order to participate) south of 39° North latitude (Point Arena, California) and an open access fishery (i.e., not requiring federal permits) north of 39° North latitude. However, Oregon and Washington have specific restrictions limiting the number of vessels in their respective fisheries.
Pacific sardine: Under the annual management cycle for CPS, every April the Council reviews the current stock assessment for Pacific sardine and recommends harvest specifications and management measures to NOAA Fisheries for the upcoming fishing year, which runs from July 1 to June 30.
Pacific mackerel: Every other June, the Council reviews the current stock assessment for Pacific mackerel, and recommends harvest specifications and management measures for the upcoming two fishing years. The Pacific mackerel fishing year also runs from July 1 through June 30.
Usually once per year, an updated SAFE document for the fishery covering all stocks is presented to the Council. It includes detailed information on CPS fishery statistics, management history, harvest policy and economics.
NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) in La Jolla, California conducts stock assessments and recruitment research for Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) using data gathered from annual research cruises. CPS biomass estimates from the SWFSC’s stock assessment reports are presented annually to the Pacific Fishery Management Council and used to set annual harvest limits for actively managed CPS stocks (i.e., Pacific sardine and Pacific mackerel).