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HMS FMP regulatory framework

Changes to regulations pursuant to the FMP

YearEffective Date (Y/M/D)TitleCitation
202020/03/09Protected Species Hard Caps for the California/Oregon Large-Mesh Drift Gillnet Fishery85 FR 7246
201818/06/06Based on recommendations from the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), NMFS is issuing regulations under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) to implement Amendment 4 to the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Highly Migratory Species (HMS FMP).83 FR 19981
201818/04/13California Drift Gillnet Fishery; Implementation of a Federal Limited Entry Drift Gillnet Permit83 FR 11146
201515/08/05Revision to Prohibited Species Regulations80 FR 46519
201515/07/30Recreational Fishing Restrictions for Pacific Bluefin Tuna80 FR 44887
201414/N/AControl Date for Large-Mesh Drift Gillnet Limited Entry Program79 FR 64161
201212/04/18Swordfish Retention Limits77 FR 15973
201111/10/13Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures76 FR 56327
200909/09/29Collection of a permit fee for vessel owners participating in commercial and charter recreational fishing for highly migratory species (HMS) in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the West Coast of California, Oregon, and Washington.74 FR 37177
20070711/14Daily bag limits for sport-caught albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) and bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off California 72 FR 58258
200707/09/05Amend vessel identification regulations of the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species (HMS)72 FR 43563
200707/06/08Amend text in the regulations governing closures of the drift gillnet fishery in the Pacific Loggerhead Conservation Area during El Nino events72 FR 31756
200707/04/11Revise the method for renewing and replacing permits issued under the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species (HMS)72 FR 10935
200404/05/07Implement the approved portions of the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species (FMP)69 FR 18443

Monitoring and enforcement

Status of HMS Permits

The reporting and recordkeeping requirements of the HMS FMP became effective February 10, 2005, and formalized the requirement for an HMS permit. Title 50, Section 660.707 of the Code of Federal Regulations outlines the required HMS permit with an endorsement for a specific gear for all U.S. commercial and recreational charter fishing vessels fishing for HMS within the U.S. EEZ off the States of California, Oregon, and Washington. The permit requirements also apply for U.S. commercial fishing vessels that land or transship HMS shoreward of the outer boundary of the U.S. EEZ off the States of California, Oregon, and Washington. The permit must be on board the vessel and available for inspection by an authorized officer. The following table shows the number of valid HMS permits by year.

HMS permits recorded in the permit database for each year since the regulation became effective on February 10, 2005. The permit data presented reflects valid permits and does not necessarily reflect total number of active vessels (i.e., vessels with catch and effort history in a given fishery year).

Year California OregonWashingtonOtherTotal
20056776262981351,736
20068006843391521,975
200778556131810817772
2008826569331841810
2009903650381541988
2010887620383801970
20118626503401061958
20128266259481131912
20138426473781402007
2014851597433751956
2015867608441862002
2016828576414771895

Notes: The permits are issued to the vessel owner(s) not to the vessels themselves. The totals indicate the number of valid permits in each year and cannot be added across years. The “Other” column includes non-west coast home ports/states and permits issued with no home port/state designated.

HMS fisheries data collection

Catch, effort, size composition, and landings data are critical for monitoring HMS fisheries and assessing the status of HMS stocks. The SWFSC monitors seven Pacific Ocean HMS fisheries. Logbook, observer, landing, and size composition data from these fisheries come from various sources, as shown in the table below.

FisheryLogbooksObserverLandingsSize composition
North Pacific Albacore Troll FP/S/ID
Large Mesh Drift GillnetSFPO
HarpoonSP
EPO Purse SeineIIC/PD
California LonglineFFHH
California HMS SportSD (PBF)
Albacore Sport (OR/WA)F

LEGEND
Logbooks/Observer: F – federal; S – state; I – international
Landings monitored by: P – PacFIN; C – cannery; H – Hawaii
Size composition: O – observer; D – dock-side

All HMS permit holders, including HMS recreational charter vessels, are required to maintain logbooks. All information specified on the logbook forms must be recorded on the forms within 24 hours after the completion of each fishing day. The original logbook form for each fishing trip must be submitted to NMFS within 30 days of the end of each trip. Each form must be signed and dated by the fishing vessel operator.

The CDFW implemented a harpoon logbook and permit program in 1974. Logbooks are submitted to CDFW and forwarded to SWFSC for editing and keypunching.

The gillnet logbook program was implemented in 1980 by the CDFW. Logbooks are submitted to CDFW and forwarded to SWFSC for editing and keypunching.

Purse-seine vessels based on the west coast primarily target CPS but occasionally target HMS (albacorer bluefin tuna) when they are available and market conditions are favorable. Logbook data are required to be submitted to NMFS when these vessels target HMS.

Participants in the west-coast based longline fisheries submit logbook data to SWFSC. Logbook data are maintained at SWFSC and are combined with Hawaii longline data for international reporting. PacFIN data are not used in the estimation of total annual catch estimates for Pacific HMS pelagic longline fisheries.

CPFV vessel owners based in California submit logbook data to CDFW who in turn make the data available to SWFSC. SWFSC staff extracts and summarize the HMS component of the data for reporting purposes. CPFV fisheries in Washington and Oregon occasionally target albacore during the summer months when fish are close enough to shore. When targeting albacore, CPFV vessel owners complete a CPFV logbook and submit the data to SWFSC where the data are maintained and combined with summarized CPFV data from California.

Protected resources regulations

HMS FMP Endangered Species Act Consultations

Longline and drift gillnet vessels on rare occasions encounter endangered and threatened species of sea turtles and marine mammals while targeting HMS.  HMS longline vessels also infrequently encounter a number of sea birds.  Endangered and threatened marine species are protected through a number of Federal laws, including the ESA and the MMPA. The HMS FMP final rule (69 FR 18444) adopted measures to minimize interactions of HMS gears with protected species and to ensure that the HMS fisheries are operating consistent with Federal laws. These measures include time and area closures, gear requirements, and safe handling and release techniques for protected seabirds and sea turtles.  Refer to 50 CFR 660.712, 713, and 720 and 50 CFR 229.31 and 223.206 for the complete list and text of the regulations.

Impacts of  HMS FMP fisheries on species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (including marine mammals and sea turtles) have been analyzed in section 7 consultations and biological opinions (BOs), which are listed below.  BOs include an Incidental Take Statement with anticipated mortalities and entanglements of ESA-listed marine mammals and sea turtles that are likely to interact with the drift gillnet vessels targeting HMS fish species.

The 2004 BO for the HMS FMP considered the impacts of the proposed shallow-set longline fishery and found that the fishery was likely to jeopardize the continued existence of threatened loggerhead sea turtles. As a result, the shallow-set longline HMS fishery was prohibited when the FMP was implemented.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service also conducted a section 7 consultation on the HMS FMP for the endangered short-tailed albatross and brown pelican.  (The brown pelican has subsequently been de-listed.)

More information on the ESA and endangered and threatened species under NMFS’ jurisdiction may be found on NOAA Fisheries Endangered Species Conservation webpage.

Biological opinions for west coast HMS fisheries

DateTitle
02/04/2004Biological Opinion on Highly Migratory Species FMP (NMFS)
NDBiological Opinion on Highly Migratory Species FMP (USFWS)
10/23/2006Shallow-set Longline exempted fishing permit under the U.S. West Coast Highly Migratory Species Fisheries
07/29/08 Updated Shallow-set Longline exempted fishing permit under the FMP for West Coast Highly Migratory Species Fisheries
04/04/11Authorization of (1) the deep-set tuna longline fishery managed under the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Highly Migratory Species, and (2) continued operation of Highly Migratory Species fishery vessels in the deep-set tuna longline fishery under permits pursuant to the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act
05/02/13Re-initiation of ESA Section 7 Consultation on the Effects of the U.S. West Coast Highly Migratory Species Drift Gillnet Fishery on ESA Listed Species
08/18/16Continued operation of the west coast based deep-set longline fishery managed under the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Highly Migratory Species Fisheries

Sea turtles listed under the ESA

Takes of green, olive ridley and loggerhead sea turtles are uncommon in the California drift gillnet fishery except under certain environmental conditions (e.g., El Niño or higher than usual sea surface temperatures) when turtles may move into the areas of drift gillnet fishing.  Takes of leatherbacks are also rare, likely due to the time/area closure which has been in effect since the 2001 season and subsequent reductions in fishing effort.  Since 2001, only two leatherbacks have been observed taken (released alive) in the drift gillnet fishery, one in 2009 and another in October 2012.

On April 6, 2016, NMFS and the USFWS published a final rule to list 11 DPSs of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) under the ESA (81 FR 20057).  Green sea turtles found off the U.S. west coast comprise the East Pacific DPS, which is listed as threatened.  NMFS is currently in the process of the consideration of designating critical habitat for green sea turtles in the marine environment off the U.S. west coast.

On January 29, 2012 NMFS published a final rule that designates areas off the U.S. west coast as critical habitat for endangered leatherback sea turtles (77 FR 4170).  The final rule designates as critical habitat an area of approximately 41,914 square miles from Point Arguello to Point Arena, California, and from Cape Blanco in Oregon to Cape Flattery, Washington.

On September 22, 2011, NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a final rule to list nine distinct population segments (DPSs) of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) pursuant to the ESA. After considering designation of  critical habitat for the two DPSs that occur within the EEZ of the United States, the North Pacific DPS (listed as endangered) and the Northwest Atlantic DPS (listed as threatened), in 2014 NMFS published a final rule (79 FR 39855) concluding “No marine areas meeting the definition of critical habitat were identified within the jurisdiction of the United States for the North Pacific Ocean DPS, and therefore we are not designating critical habitat for that DPS.”

Marine Mammal Protection Act

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) establishes a general prohibition on the “take” of any marine mammal (note that the MMPA “take” definition is somewhat different from the ESA definition).  An exemption may be granted if the activity meets certain standards pursuant to MMPA Section 101. For example, section 101(a)(5)(E) provides that NMFS shall allow, for a period of up to three years, the incidental taking of marine mammal species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by persons using vessels of the United States with valid fishing permits, if NMFS makes certain determinations.  NMFS must first determine, after notice and opportunity for public comment, that: 1) the incidental mortality and serious injury from commercial fisheries will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stock; 2) a recovery plan has been developed or is being developed for such species or stock under the ESA; and 3) where required under section 118 of the MMPA, a monitoring program has been established, vessels engaged in such fisheries are registered in accordance with section 118 of the MMPA, and a take reduction plan has been developed or is being developed for such species or stock.

In order to make a negligible impact determination, NMFS must consider the total human-related mortality and serious injury to the affected stock of marine mammals.  This includes the known or estimated takes from all human sources, such as commercial fisheries and ship strikes.  There are five criteria that NMFS adopted in 1999 to make negligible impact determinations for MMPA 101(a)(5)(E) permits (64 FR 28800; May 27, 1999).  Criterion 1 is the starting point for analysis.  If Criterion 1 is not satisfied, NMFS may use one of the other criteria as appropriate.

  1. The threshold for initial determination will remain at 0.1 PBR. If total human-related serious injuries and mortalities are less than 0.1 PBR, all fisheries may be permitted.
  2. If total human-related serious injuries and mortalities are greater than PBR, and fisheries-related mortality is less than 0.1 PBR, individual fisheries may be permitted if management measures are being taken to address non-fisheries-related serious injuries and mortalities. When fisheries-related mortality and serious injury is less than 10 percent of the total, the appropriate management action is to address components that account for the major portion of the total.
  3. If total fisheries-related serious injuries and mortalities are greater than 0.1 PBR and less than PBR and the population is stable or increasing, fisheries may be permitted subject to individual review and certainty of data.  Although the PBR level has been set up as a conservative standard that will allow recovery of a stock, there are reasons for individually reviewing fisheries if serious injuries and mortalities are above the threshold level. First, increases in permitted serious injuries and mortalities should be carefully considered. Second, as serious injuries and mortalities approach the PBR level, uncertainties in elements such as population size, reproductive rates, and fisheries-related mortalities become more important.
  4. If the population abundance of a stock is declining, the threshold level of 0.1 PBR will continue to be used. If a population is declining despite limitations on human-related serious injuries and mortalities below the PBR level, a more conservative criterion is warranted.
  5. If total fisheries-related serious injuries and mortalities are greater than PBR, permits may not be issued.

On January 10, 2017, NMFS issued a Federal Register notice proposing to issue a 3-year permit to authorize the incidental take of ESA-listed humpback whales and sperm whales by the California thresher shark/swordfish drift gillnet fishery (and the WA/OR/CA sablefish pot fishery) (82 FR 2955).  Public comments must be received by February 9, 2017. Regulations implementing the Plan require fishermen participating in the California drift gillnet fishery targeting swordfish and thresher shark to use pingers in a staggered configuration on their nets and a minimum length of buoy lines. The Pacific Offshore Take Reduction Plan and regulations  (satisfying requirement 3, above) were finalized in 1997. The Pacific Offshore Take Reduction Team meets periodically to assess the effectiveness of the Plan and, if necessary, develop recommendations for reducing marine mammal incidental serious injury and mortality in the California drift gillnet fishery.

The MMPA mandates that each commercial fishery be classified by the level of mortality and serious injury of marine mammals occurring incidental to each fishery. The List of Fisheries classifies U.S. commercial fisheries into one of three categories according to the level of incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals.  This classification is based on the rate, in numbers of animals per year, of incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals due to commercial fishing operations relative to a stock’s Potential Biological Removal (PBR) level, defined (50 CFR 229.2) as the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortality, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population.  The DGN fishery is currently categorized as a Category I fishery (annual mortality and serious injury of a stock in a given fishery is greater than or equal to 50 percent of the PBR level) due to interactions with sperm whales in 2010.

Marine mammals of concern for west coast HMS Fisheries

As discussed above, PBR is an important threshold for making the negligible impact determination.  PBR is calculated as 0.5 times the maximum potential population growth rate (Rmax) times the minimum estimate of abundance (Nmin) times a recovery factor (Fr). Marine mammal stocks may be defined as “strategic” if human-caused mortality exceeds PBR, the species is listed under the ESA, the population is estimated to be declining, or the stock is designated as “depleted” under the MMPA.  U.S. Pacific Marine Mammal Stock Assessment Reports show estimates of these parameters for marine mammal stocks for which the Council established bycatch performance metrics.  In 2015 the Council identified these bycatch performance metrics for the California large mesh drift gillnet (DGN) fishery including take levels for selected marine mammals. At that time the Council recommended hard caps for sea turtles and selected marine mammals. In 2017 NMFS determined that the use of hard caps in this instance was unwarranted but the Council decided that take of these species should also be included as performance metrics.

On September 8, 2016, NMFS published a final rule to list (and reclassify the formerly globally listed entity) 14 DPSs of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) under the ESA (81 FR 62260).  NMFS has identified three DPSs of humpback whales that are found off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California.  These are: the Hawaii DPS (found predominately off Washington and southern British Columbia), which is not listed under the ESA; the Mexico DPS (found all along the coast), which is listed as threatened under the ESA; and the Central America DPS (found all along the coast), which is listed as endangered under the ESA.

International management

Regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs)  are responsible for the conservation and management of fisheries for tunas and other species taken by tuna-fishing vessels both outside and within areas of national jurisdiction.  These organizations agree to  measures, usually by consensus, which are implemented by member countries for their flag vessels.  In the Pacific Ocean the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) establish measures within their respective Convention Areas, as illustrated in the figure below.  Notice that there is an area of overlap between the two Convention areas in the South Pacific.

Tuna RFMOs

West Coast fisheries are more directly affected by IATTC measures since vessels mostly fish within that Convention Area.  However, the WCPFC is especially active in managing northern stocks (those predominately occurring north of 20° North latitude). In the case of Pacific bluefin tuna and North Pacific albacore, tuna scientists recognize a single North Pacific stock occurring in both convention areas.  Furthermore, under domestic law the Chair of the Pacific Council, or his or her designee, is allocated a spot as a Commissioner for the United States Section to the WCPFC.  This provides a direct advisory role for the Pacific Council in policies and proposals that the U.S. may advocate in the WCPFC.  The Council frequently provides advice to U.S. delegations to these RFMOs and Council staff attends their meetings.

IATTC and WCPFC outcomes

Resolutions adopted at the 94th meeting of the IATTC (July 22-26, 2019)

Resolutions and Conservation measures adopted at the sixteenth regular session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (December 5-11, 2019)

  • CMM 2019-01 Cooperating Non-Members
  • CMM 2019-02 Pacific Bluefin
  • CMM 2019-03 North Pacific Albacore
  • CMM 2019-04 Sharks
  • CMM 2019-05 Mobulid Rays caught in association with fisheries in the WCPFC Convention Area
  • CMM 2019-06 Compliance Monitoring Scheme
  • CMM 2019-07 WCPFC IUU Vessel List
  • CMM 2019-08 Charter Notification Scheme.
  • Resolution 2019-01 Climate Change as it relates to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission

Regulations for international HMS fisheries and related activities in the Pacific

YearEffective Date (Y/M/D)RegionTitleCitation
201920/01/21EPOProcedures for the Active and Inactive Vessel Register84 FR 70040
201919/10/09WCPOClosure of Purse Seine Fishery in the ELAPS in 201984 FR 52035
201919/07/31WCPOFishing Restrictions in Purse Seine Fisheries84 FR 37145
201919/05/08EPO 2019 and 2020 Commercial Fishing Restrictions for Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean84 FR 18409
201819/01/07EPOFishing Restrictions for Fish Aggregating Devices in the Eastern Pacific Ocean83 FR 62732
201818/09/18WCPOClosure of Purse Seine Fishery on the High Seas in 201883 FR 45849
201818/07/18WCPOFishing Limits in Purse Seine and Longline Fisheries, Restrictions on the Use of Fish Aggregating Devices in Purse Seine Fisheries, and Transshipment Prohibitions83 FR 33851
201819/01/01EPOFishing Restrictions for Tropical Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean for 2018 to 202083 FR 15503
201818/04/27EPORevised 2018 Commercial Fishing Restrictions for Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean; 2018 Catch Limit83 FR 13203
201718/01/01EPORestrictions on Fishing for Sharks in the Eastern Pacific Ocean82 FR 56177
201717/09/29EPORevised 2017 Fishing Restrictions for Tropical Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean82 FR 45514
201717/09/08EPO2017 Bigeye Tuna Longline Fishery Closure in the Eastern Pacific Ocean82 FR 41562
201717/08/27EPO2017 Commercial Pacific Bluefin Tuna Fishery Closure in the Eastern Pacific Ocean82 FR 40720
201717/05/22EPO2017 and 2018 Commercial Fishing Restrictions for Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean82 FR 18704
201717/05/11EPOFishing Restrictions for Tropical Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean82 FR 17382
201617/01/01EPOSilky Shark Fishing Restrictions and Fish Aggregating Device Data Collection and Identification81 FR 86966
201616/08/01EPOFishing Restrictions Regarding Mobulid Rays81 FR 50401
201616/07/25EPO2016 Bigeye Tuna Longline Fishery Closure in the Eastern Pacific Ocea81 FR 46614
201616/07/15WCPO2016 Bigeye Tuna Longline Fishery Closure81 FR 45982
201616/07/25WCPOPurse Seine Observer Requirements, and Fishing Restrictions and Limits in Purse Seine and Longline Fisheries for 2016-201781 FR 41239
201616/06/16EPOResponse to Petition for Rulemaking81 FR 39213
201616/06/06EPOAmend Regulations Implementing Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission Resolution C-02-0381 FR 36183
201616/05/25WCPOFishing Effort Limits in Purse Seine Fisheries for 201681 FR 33147
201616/05/26EPO/WCPOFishing Restrictions for the Area of Overlap Between the Convention Areas of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission81 FR 24501
201616/02/14EPO2016 Commercial Pacific Bluefin Tuna Catch Limit in the Eastern Pacific Ocean81 FR 2110
201616/02/13EPOVessel Register Required Information, International Maritime Organization Numbering Scheme81 FR 1878
210516/01/14High Seas Fishing Compliance Act; Permitting and Monitoring of U.S. High Seas Fishing Vessels80 FR 62488
210516/01/01EPOEstablishment of Tuna Vessel Monitoring System in the Eastern Pacific Ocean80 FR 60533
210515/11/30WCPOFishing Effort and Catch Limits and Other Restrictions and Requirements80 FR 59037
210515/08/25WCPOPurse Seine Fishing Restrictions During Closure Periods80 FR 51478
210515/08/25WCPOFishing Effort Limits in Purse Seine Fisheries for 201580 FR 51476
210515/08/12EPO2015 Bigeye Tuna Longline Fishery Closure in the Eastern Pacific Ocean80 FR 46515
210515/07/23WCPOBigeye Tuna Catch Limits in Longline Fisheries for 201580 FR 43634
210515/07/09EPO2015 and 2016 Commercial Fishing Restrictions for Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean80 FR 38986
210515/06/15WCPOClosure of Purse Seine Fishery in the ELAPS in 201580 FR 32313
210515/05/21WCPOFishing Effort Limits in Purse Seine Fisheries for 201580 FR 29220
210515/03/23WCPOFishing Restrictions Regarding the Oceanic Whitetip Shark, the Whale Shark, and the Silky Shark80 FR 8807