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 seven 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. 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), was approved on March 31, 2023. Implemented regulations became effective on June 7, 2023. These measures include a limited entry permit program for use of DSBG in the Southern California Bight. On that date NMFS opened a 60-day window to submit applications for limited entry permits. Permits will then be issued according to the process described in the FMP. Amendment 7, updating descriptions of standardized bycatch reporting methodologies, was part of a comprehensive amendment package for all four Council FMPs and approved on July 5, 2022.

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)

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. Amendment 3 added additional EC species as part of ecosystem-based amendments to all four Council FMPs. 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)

  • Round herring, Etrumeus teres
  • Thread herring, Opisthonema libertate, O. medirastre
  • Mesopelagic fishes of the families Myctophidae, Bathylagidae, Paralepididae, and Gonostomatidae  Pacific sand lance, Ammodytes hexapterus
  • Pacific saury, Cololabis saira  Silversides, Atherinopsidae  Smelts of the family Osmeridae
  • Pelagic squids (families: Cranchiidae, Gonatidae, Histioteuthidae, Octopoteuthidae, Ommastrephidae except Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas), Onychoteuthidae, and Thysanoteuthidae)

National Standard Guidelines (50 CFR600 Subpart D) define EC species as “stocks that a Council or the Secretary has determined do not require conservation and management, but desire to list in an FMP in order to achieve ecosystem management objectives” (see 660.305(c)(5) and (d)(13)). Determining whether a stock requires conservation and management is based on factors enumerated at 600.305(c)(1). 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 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.

AAny 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. This process has been used infrequently to make regulatory amendments. Council meetings in 2006 initiated the first biennial management cycle under the HMS FMP. In this first cycle the Council recommended regulatory amendments to change vessel marking requirements (72 FR 43563) and albacore and Pacific bluefin tuna recreational bag limits in Southern California (72 FR 58258). 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 (80 FR 44887). See the Regulatory Framework page for a list of changes to HMS FMP regulations.

Highly Migratory Species Management Team

For information about the HMSMT see their webpage.