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California sardine (Sardinops sagax)

Pacific Fishery Management Council

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In the "Cannery Row" heydays of the 1930s and 1940s, the California sardine fishery was the largest in North America. After several decades of intensive fishing, the sardine population collapsed in the 1940s and the fishery was finally closed in the 1960s. Despite a 20-year fishing moratorium, the sardine stock has been slow to recover and current estimates of stock biomass are only about one-third of historic estimates.1 In recent years the sardine fishery has expanded rapidly off California and Mexico and combined catches have risen to nearly 100,000 metric tons per year, making the new sardine fishery one of the largest on the West Coast after Pacific hake. A parallel Gulf of California sardine fishery in Mexico has also expanded in recent years.

Sardines serve as important forage for tunas, salmon, marlin, mackerel, sharks and some groundfish species, as well as many seabirds, seals, sea lions, dolphins and whales. Although some sardines have been canned for human consumption, the major human use today is reduction to fish meal and oil to supply the growing aquaculture industry's demand for aquafeed, in addition to canned pet foods. Small quantities of sardines and other species are also used as bait in sport fisheries.

Sardines are managed under the West Coast Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Fishery Management Plan, which also includes anchovy, mackerel, and squid. The West Coast CPS fishery has expanded significantly in recent times, reaching a high of 219,840 tons (~485 million lb) in 2000. Market squid accounted for 54% and Pacific sardine for 31% of total landings in 2000.2

1 PFMC. Coastal Pelagic Species Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) for 2006, p 31.
2 See Pacific Fishery Management Council website:



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