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Pelagic Fisheries and Ecosystems Program

photo collage: fishing boats at sea, man working in a lab, commercial fishermen bringing in nets on boat, school of fish underwater

Overview of the Pelagic Fisheries and Ecosystems Program

The Pelagic Fisheries and Ecosystems Program collects data and provides management recommendations for Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS), Highly Migratory Species (HMS), and the pelagic (open ocean) ecosystem.

Primary CPS include Pacific Sardine, Pacific Mackerel, and Market Squid. Other species of interest include Northern Anchovy, Jack Mackerel, and krill (retention prohibited).

Primary HMS include North Pacific Albacore, Bigeye, Pacific Bluefin, Skipjack and Yellowfin tunas; Swordfish and Marlin; and Blue, Shortfin Mako and Common, Pelagic and Bigeye Thresher sharks. Other species of interest include Opah, Dolphinfish (Dorado), and three species of prohibited sharks (Basking, Megamouth, and Great White).

Pelagic fisheries occur in both state and federal waters, mostly under joint management coordinated with other states and the federal government through the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Market Squid are managed by the State of California through a state fishery management plan and tunas are subject to international management due to their widespread distribution.

This program includes three projects: CPS Management, HMS and Ecosystem Management, and Data Collection and Analysis. The CPS and HMS-Ecosystem projects are responsible for joint management of their respective fisheries, as well as Pacific Fishery Management Council activities to implement ecosystem-based management (HMS-Ecosystem Project). The Data Collection and Analysis project conducts fishery monitoring and other data collection that supports and informs management decisions and stock assessments.

Coastal Pelagic Species

Pacific Sardine | Northern Anchovy | Pacific Mackerel | Jack Mackerel | Market Squid

Pacific Sardine

Green and silver sardine with dots in the middle

Pacific Sardine (Sardinops sagax caerulea) are small pelagic fish found throughout the Pacific Ocean. Sardine eat various forms of plankton such as fish larvae and crustaceans. Landings of sardine have historically fluctuated due to changing environmental conditions. Pacific Sardine are primarily caught in commercial fisheries but are also used as recreational bait.

Northern Anchovy

Northern anchovy

Northern Anchovy (​Engraulis mordax) are small, short-lived pelagic fish found across the eastern Pacific Ocean. Anchovy eat various types of plankton and play an important role as common prey for many species of birds, mammals, and fish. Northern Anchovy are primarily caught in commercial fisheries but are also used as recreational bait.

Pacific Mackerel

Green and silver Pacific mackerel

Pacific Mackerel (​Scomber japonicus) are a temperate and subtropical schooling fish found throughout the eastern Pacific Ocean. They are one of the most abundant sport-caught fish off California, and support an important commercial fishery as well.

Jack Mackerel

Green and silver jack mackerel

Jack Mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus) are a long-lived fish found throughout the northeastern Pacific Ocean. They are active predators of copepods, squid, anchovy, and other fishes. Jack Mackerel are prey for larger tuna, billfish, and marine mammals. They are occasionally caught in both recreational and commercial fisheries.

Market Squid

white market squid

Market Squid (Doryteuthis opalescens), range from southeastern Alaska to Baja California, Mexico. The Market Squid commercial fishery is consistently one of California's largest in both volume and revenue. Market squid are harvested for human consumption and as bait.

Highly Migratory Species

Tunas | Sharks | Billfishes


Silver and blue bigeye tuna

Tuna are large fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. They are fast swimmers, with some species capable of swimming 43 miles per hour or more. Some larger tuna species, such as Pacific Bluefin Tuna, display warm-blooded adaptations and can raise their body temperature above water temperature by means of muscular activity. This enables them to survive in cooler waters and inhabit a wider range of ocean environments than other types of fish. Tuna are regularly caught in both recreational and commercial fisheries.

For additional life history information, click on one of the tuna species below:


Thresher shark underwater

Pelagic (open ocean) sharks caught off California include Shortfin Mako, thresher, and Blue sharks. All sharks are cartilaginous, meaning their skeletal structure is composed of cartilage rather than bone. Sharks are long-lived, take a long time to mature, and generally have very few offspring; thus conservation is very important in management of the fishery. Sharks are regularly caught in both commercial and recreational fisheries.

For additional life history information, click on one of the shark species below:

BillfishesDrawing of a billfish

The term "billfish" is applied to a number of different large, predatory fish characterized by their long, sword-like bills. Billfish do not spear their prey; rather, they use their bills to stun prey. They are important apex predators feeding on a wide variety of smaller fish and squid. Billfish are found worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters, but Swordfish are sometimes found in cooler waters as well. Billfish found off California are Striped Marlin and Swordfish. Both species are caught in recreational fisheries however Striped Marlin cannot be commercially landed.

For additional life history information, click on one of the billfish species below:


In-season Tracking

Current CA Market Squid Landings

Catch limit 4/1/18 - 3/31/19: 118,000 st

All data are PRELIMINARY and subject to change

As of September 14, 2018 total landings of market squid are 13,797.3 st.

Current CA Pacific Bluefin Tuna Landings

Catch limit 1/1/18 - 12/31/18: 114 metric tons

All data are PRELIMINARY and subject to change

View additional information regarding link opens in new windowPacific Bluefin Tuna Commercial Harvest Status


Coastal Pelagic Species

Graph showing seasonal landings of Market Squid
Market Squid Seasonal Landings

Highly Migratory Species