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Summary Report of the 2010 Experimental Purse Seine Fishery

Category: Fishing / Shellfishing - Harvest and Catch Reports

Date Published: March 2011

Number of Pages: 15

Author(s): Lorna Wargo and Carol Henry


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 (Table 1).

Table 1. Harvest Guideline 2010 Allocation.


Seasonal Allocation Periods

 ABC/Total Harvest Guideline


 Period 1
Jan. 1 – June 30

 Period 2
July 1 – Sept. 14

 Period 3
Sept. 15 – Dec. 31

Research Set Aside





Adjusted Harvest Guideline





Incidental Fishery Set Aside





Management Uncertainty Buffer





Directed Fishery Harvest Guideline





In 2010, the overall coastwide harvest guideline was 72,039 metric tons (mt). Of this, 5,000 mt of sardines were set aside for research projects authorized through Experimental Fishery Permits. Forty-two hundred (4,200) metric tons were set aside for a joint Northwest Sardine Survey and the California Wetfish Producers Association project to conduct aerial surveys to photograph and measure sardine biomass between Cape Flattery, Washington and the Channel Islands in California. The remaining 800 mt was used in a pilot survey in the Southern California Bight to investigate alternative survey methods.

The 2010 harvest guideline represents a negligible increase over 2009, but continues the general downward trend of the past decade (Table 2): the 2010 harvest guideline represented a 61% decline from the first harvest guideline in 2000. From 2000 to 2007 the harvest guideline averaged 135,049 mt, it then dropped by 44% to 76,021 mt from 2008 to 2010. Given this decrease, concerns were raised that there would not be enough sardines to cover incidental catch of sardines in fisheries targeting other coastal pelagic species, such as squid and anchovy. To this end, the harvest guideline was reduced by a total of 3,000 mt. Unused portions of the incidental set aside roll over to the next period. To address the lag between when landings are made and when a complete accounting of catch can be made, a “management uncertainty” buffer of 4,000 pounds was also subtracted from the overall harvest guideline. The resulting final value of 60,000 mt was allocated to the three directed fishing periods.

Table 2. Annual coastwide harvest guideline, 2000-2010.


Harvest Guideline

Harvest Guideline

























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. Coastal sardine harvest, landing, and reporting requirements can be found in Appendix A.