HMS SAFE introduction

Fishery management plan amendments

The Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species (HMS FMP) was developed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council in response to the need to coordinate state, Federal, and international management.  The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), on behalf of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, partially approved the HMS FMP on February 4, 2004.  The majority of HMS FMP implementing regulations became effective on April 7, 2004.  Reporting and recordkeeping provisions became effective on February 10, 2005.

The HMS FMP has been amended five times since its implementation.  Amendment 1, approved by NMFS on June 7, 2007, incorporates recommended international measures to end overfishing of the Pacific stock of bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus).  Amendment 2, approved by NMFS on June 27, 2011, makes the FMP consistent with revised National Standard 1 Guidelines. Amendment 3, adopted in 2015, added a suite of lower trophic level species to the FMP’s list of ecosystem component (EC) species. Consistent with the objectives of the Council’s FMPs and its Fishery Ecosystem Plan, Amendment 3 prohibits future development of directed commercial fisheries for the suite of EC species shared between all four FMPs (“Shared EC Species”) until and unless the Council has had an adequate opportunity to both assess the scientific information relating to any proposed directed fishery and consider potential impacts to existing fisheries, fishing communities, and the greater marine ecosystem. Secretarial approval of Amendment 4 was approved on April 24, 2018. Amendment 4 revises and updates portions of the FMP to bring descriptions of the management context for HMS fisheries up to date and to better describe the Council’s role in the process of making stock status determinations including evaluations of the best scientific information available (BSIA). This amendment also changes the biennial meeting schedule to better align it with the National Marine Fisheries Service’s process for conducting HMS stock status determinations. Amendment 5 was approved December 14, 2017. This amendment creates a Federal permit for the California large mesh drift net fishery. Amendment 6, authorizing deep-set buoy gear (DSBG), is currently in the implementation phase with regulations expected to be in place by the end of 2022 or early 2023. These measures include a limited entry permit program for use of DSBG in the Southern California Bight.

Management unit species and ecosystem component species

The HMS currently managed under the FMP are:

  • Striped marlin (Kajikia audax*)
  • Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)
  • Common thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus)
  • Shortfin mako shark (bonito shark) (Isurus oxyrinchus)
  • Blue shark (Prionace glauca)
  • North Pacific albacore (Thunnus alalunga)
  • Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)
  • Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)
  • Skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)
  • Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis)
  • Dorado, a.k.a. mahi mahi or dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus)

*The scientific name for this species was previously Tetrapturus audax.

In addition, Amendment 2 added eight EC species to the FMP.  The EC category is identified in the revised National Standard 1 Guidelines.  The list was compiled from monitored species previously identified in the plan and by moving two management unit species to the EC category.  The EC species are:

  • Bigeye thresher shark (Alopias superciliosus)
  • Common mola (Mola mola)
  • Escolar (Lepidocybium flavobrunneum)
  • Lancetfishes (Alepisauridae)
  • Louvar (Luvarus imperialis)
  • Pelagic sting ray (Dasyetis violacea)
  • Pelagic thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus)
  • Wahoo (Acathocybium solandri)

EC species are not considered “in the fishery” but Councils should consider measures to mitigate and minimize bycatch of these species, to the extent practicable, consistent with National Standard 9.  MSY, OY, and other reference points do not need to be specified for EC species.  Identification of EC species will help the Council to track these species over time, periodically evaluate their status, and assess whether any management is needed under the FMP, in which case an EC species could be reclassified as a managed species.

The management cycle

The HMS FMP also establishes a process for the delivery of the SAFE report to the Council, intended to coincide with the management cycle.

At the September Council meeting in even numbered years a draft SAFE report provides an update to the Council on status of the HMS fisheries and, as appropriate, proposed adjustments to the numerical estimates of maximum sustainable yield (MSY), optimum yield (OY), and status determination criteria (SDC). If necessary, Council directs HMSMT to prepare draft regulatory analysis to implement revised estimates of reference point values, ACLs, or other harvest objectives and/or management measures.

At the November Council meeting in even numbered years a final SAFE report on the status of HMS stocks and fisheries is presented to Council. If necessary, the Council directs HMSMT to prepare a draft regulatory analysis to implement revised estimates of reference point values, ACLs, or other harvest objectives and/or management measures. The Council adopts for public review proposed actions addressing concerns from current and previous SAFE reports.

At the next Council meeting, in March of odd numbered years, the Council adopts final recommendations to NMFS, Department of State, and Congress for international measures to end overfishing and/or rebuild stocks and proposed regulations necessary for domestic fishery management.

Any management measures proposed by the Council are implemented during the next fishing year, which starts on April 1, and stay in effect unless action is taken to modify the action.  Council meetings in 2006 initiated the first biennial management cycle under the HMS FMP with consideration of measures to be implemented during the April 1, 2007–March 31, 2009 biennium.  In 2010 the Council considered management changes for the third biennial period, April 1, 2011–March 31, 2013. In 2012 the Council did not consider any regulatory changes for the April 1, 2013–March 31, 2015 biennium. In 2014 the Council considered an adjustment to recreational bag limits for Pacific bluefin tuna in Southern California and recommended reducing the bag limit to two fish per day per angler with a six fish maximum per angler for multi-day trips. This action also included requirements at processing of recreationally-caught bluefin at sea to allow species identification. The final rule implementing this regulation was published in the Federal Register (80 FR 44887) on July 28, 2015 and became effective on July 30, 2015. In 2016, 2018, and 2020 the Council did not recommend any regulatory changes for the next biennial periods (2017/2019, 2019-2021, 2021-2023).

Highly Migratory Species Management Team

For information about the HMSMT see their webpage.