[Federal] Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) – Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan
[State] Department of Fish and Game – Market Squid Fishery Management Plan, Marine Life Management Act, Marine Life Protection Act


For more than a decade, both federal and California state fishery management programs have adopted an ecosystem-based management (EBM) focus:  federally managed fisheries must comply with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), whose amendments adopted by Congress in 2007 provide an even stronger ecosystem-based fishery management framework that mandates, among other provisions, the integration of ecosystem consideration in fishery management (MSA Section 406).    The Pacific Fishery Management Council is now developing a California Current Ecosystem Management Plan that will guide fishery managers in applying EBM principles in the management strategies of west coast fisheries.

Fluharty, D., et. Al. (1999), in the paper Ecosystem-based fishery management: a report to Congress by the Ecosystem Principles Advisory Panel (U.S. Department of Commerce. NOAA/NMFS), acknowledged the Pacific Fisheries Management Council’s Anchovy Fishery Management Plan (precursor to the Coastal Pelagic Species FMP) for setting aside a portion of the population as forage for other marine life. This FMP was a pioneer in adopting an ecosystem approach to fisheries management, and the ecosystem focus was carried over into the CPS FMP, with the Cutoff portion deducted ‘off the top’ of the spawning stock biomass estimate when computing harvest guidelines to provide a forage reserve.

The State of California adopted an ecosystem focus for fishery management, paralleling that of the MSA, with the Marine Life Management Act (MLMA) in 1998, and Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in 1999.
  • Fisheries governed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council and State of California are managed based on precautionary principles that mandate protection of ecosystems and habitats, and conservation of all marine life (including ‘forage’ species).  Monitoring fisheries stocks and determining estimates of population abundance are an essential and ongoing component of management.  That is, fisheries are currently managed in an inherently flexible manner in which annual catch limits, restricted access, and time/area closures [both seasonal and permanent] play a key role.

  • Stock assessment science incorporates estimates of abundance and productivity of a given stock first to sustain and protect the resource, considering forage needs, as well as to optimize the potential yield.   Adaptive fishery management is an ongoing process and requires estimates of current biomass, historical biomass, productivity, and uncertainty.

  • Shifts in the biomass of different species in many fished ecosystems have often been driven by environmental change rather than the direct or indirect effects of fishing.  In fact, in most pelagic systems, species replacements would have occurred even in the absence of fishing pressure.



A pioneering EBM fishery management plan, the federal Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan (CPS FMP) established a “Cutoff”, subtracting 150,000 metric tons off the top of the estimated sardine spawning biomass, to ensure a resilient core population and reserve biomass for forage needs.The CPS FMP established a Sea Surface Temperature control rule for sardine, recognizing that warm-water oceanic cycles favor sardine population abundance and cold-water regimes reduce productivity.
  • Precautionary Harvest Guideline (HG) Fraction was set at 15% of sardine spawning biomass minus Cutoff when SST exceeds 17.2º C, (resulting in a harvest rate of approx. 10 percent of the spawning biomass).  The harvest control rule reduces the harvest rate to 5% when SST drops to 16.7º C.
  • Recent Annual Catch Limit (ACL) regulations adopted with the federal Magnuson Reauthorization Act require the Pacific Fishery Management Council to set harvest levels at the lower of the rate established through the CPS FMP sardine harvest control rule or the Council’s new P* policy, mandated to prevent overfishing.
The CPS FMP authorized a limited-entry fishery in CA; reduced the CA CPS finfish fleet to 65 permits, established capacity goal at 5,650.9 mt, to maintain a diverse fleet with normal harvesting capacity equal to long-term expected aggregate total finfish target harvest level of approx. 110,000 mt.Even though no krill fishery currently exists on the west coast, the CPS FMP added krill to the CPS FMP as a ‘prohibited species’.
  • [Note:  all west coast states prohibit harvesting and landing krill in state waters, but the CPS FMP prohibition prevents future offshore harvest/processing of krill in US EEZ]
The CPS FMP established a proxy MSY for market squid at 30% egg escapement.  Squid is a monitored species under the CPS FMP, and actively managed by CA under the state Market Squid FMP.
  • California Market Squid Fishery Management Plan (MSMFP), implemented under the Marine Life Management Act:    
    • In addition to 30% egg escapement, the state MSFMP mandates:
      • fishery closures statewide on weekends;
      • limited entry, transferable permits [reduced purse seine fleet from 164 to 77 transferable permits (72 purchased permits in 2010)]
  • Marine Life Protection Act:  Numerous areas have been closed to fishing, including more than 30% of squid harvest grounds in Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary and Monterey Bay – Farallon Islands Sanctuaries.  Many reserves were sited adjacent to bird rookeries and marine mammal haul out sites to protect forage for other marine life.  Additional marine reserves are pending under the Marine Life Protection Act.


In addition to precautionary fishery management measures, the Marine Life Protection Act established marine reserves closed to CPS and squid fishing to provide forage for other marine life and ensure sufficient squid egg escapement. 
  • Approximately 20 percent of squid spawning areas in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary waters were closed in 2003. These areas were sited adjacent to known bird nesting sites on Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands. 
  • The MLPA implemented additional marine reserves near Año Nuevo and the Farallon Islands to protect ‘forage’ for birds and marine mammals near rookeries and haul-out sites.
  • The Market Squid FMP also prohibited the use of attracting lights in all waters of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
Egg Escapement – the number or proportion of a female squid’s lifetime supply of eggs that she is able to deposit, on average, before being harvested in the fishery.
Egg Escapement Method – a management tool used to determine whether the fleet is fishing above or below a predetermined sustainable level of exploitation.  The method requires establishing a threshold value (30%) to ensure that an adequate number of eggs are deposited prior to harvest. 

NOTE:  Preliminary research conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, indicates that the guidelines (or parameters) established by this method may be considered conservative for market squid in that viability of eggs may increase with increased harvesting of adult squid.  Research and modeling to date indicate that the fishery is well-managed according to precautionary principles.