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Purse Seine Fishery for Pacific Sardine


Pacific sardine school
Pacific sardine
Pacific sardine

Pacific sardines are managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) under the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) fishery management plan.  Through the Council process, scientists conduct an annual coastwide stock assessment that incorporates data from federally sponsored surveys and state-managed fisheries. The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee reviews that assessment and recommends an annual coastwide harvest guideline to the Council.  After considering all the information presented through its advisory bodies and public comment, the Council adopts a final harvest guideline.  The harvest guideline is allocated seasonally with releases on January 1st, July 1st, and September 15th

From 2000 through 2009, participation in the sardine fishery was managed under Washington’s Emerging Commercial Fishery Act (ECFA), which provides for the harvest of a newly classified species or harvest of a classified species in a new area or by new means. The ECFA offers two choices for fishery-permit designations: trial, which does not limit the number of participants or experimental, which does limit participation and prohibits the transfer or sale of the permit. From 2000 through 2002, WDFW managed the purse seine fishery for sardine under the trial designation. Absent limited participation, the Washington fishery was managed to a state harvest guideline of 15,000 mt.

In 2003, the sardine fishery designation was advanced from trial to experimental as provided for under the ECFA.  The number of experimental fishery permits was capped at 25.  The experimental fishery program continued through June 2009. During the 2009 Washington State legislative session, WDFW proposed legislation to establish a commercial license limitation program specifically for the harvest and delivery of Pacific sardines into the state.  The legislation was passed into rule in July 2009.  The new rules established 16 licenses to be issued to holders of a 2008 sardine experimental fishery permit only, with an exception for past participants of the experimental fishery that became ineligible because of loss of their vessel at sea. Unlike emerging commercial fishery licenses, the newly created sardine licenses can be sold.   In addition, the new rule provides criteria for the issuance of temporary annual permits at the discretion of the WDFW Director.  In combination, the number of permanent and temporary annual licenses cannot exceed 25.


Pacific sardine net being brought in and stacked on deck
Pacific sardine net being brought in and stacked on deck.
Sardine net being sorted into three piles; cork line, net, and lead-line
Sardine net being sorted into three piles; cork line, net, and lead-line.
Pacific sardines being pumped onto the sorting table at sea
Pacific sardines being pumped
onto the sorting table at sea

Summary Reports of the Experimental Purse Seine Fishery For Pacific Sardine (Sardinops Sagax)