Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System

Marine resources - Northeast Pacific
Fact Sheet Title  Fact Sheet
Review of the state of world marine fishery resources 2011
Marine resources - Northeast Pacific
Fact Sheet Citation  
All resources in FAO Statistical Area 67
Owned byFood and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – ownership
ident Blockident Blockdisplay tree map
Species List: All aquatic species
ident Block Marine resources - Northeast Pacific
Aq Res
Biological Stock: No         Value: Regional
Management unit: No        Reference year: 2009
Aq Res State Trend

To access all FIRMS State and Trend summaries available for this Area, please look at:
Status and Trend Summaries (extracted from reports)

Salmon resources, Northeast Pacific

The salmon population increases in Alaska in most of the 1980s and 1990s were attributed to favourable ocean conditions allowing high survival of juveniles (Eggers et al., 2005). Several other factors contributed to the increases, including: (i) improved management; (ii) elimination of high seas driftnet fisheries; (iii) reduction in bycatch in fisheries for other species; and (iv) relatively pristine river habitats with minimal influence of extensive development.
Salmon stocks currently face increasing environmental problems. Many of the stocks, particularly those in the south of the region, are already severely affected. Being anadromous, salmon reproduction is strongly affected by riverine and estuarine habitat degradation caused by agriculture, logging, mining, oil and gas development, industrial development and urban expansion. The resulting conflicts with other economic sectors make mitigation difficult. There is also concern that the use of hatchery production to help compensate for habitat loss may lead to the destruction of wild stocks (Hilborn and Eggers, 2000). Damming of rivers for hydroelectric power development, water storage, and flood control have historically done great damage to salmon runs. However, under the United States Endangered Species Act and provisions of the United States Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, developments are required not to destroy essential fish habitat. As a consequence, there has been some movement towards mitigating prior habitat loss. Active projects are in place to remove dams that have blocked salmon passage on some rivers (Stadler et al., 2011).
The production of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) is variable and differs among species. Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), the most abundant and smallest species, has biennial runs with one year weak and the other strong. However, when their abundance is averaged over the region, there has been an increasing trend since the 1970s. In the past decade, catch has exceeded the long-term average. The catch of sockeye salmon (O. nerka), the second-most abundant species, consists of the catch from several large river systems. The largest of these is the Bristol Bay River system in the southeast Bering Sea and the Fraser River system in British Columbia. The catch of sockeye increased in the 1980s following good in-river survival in the late 1970s and the end of the high seas interception fisheries. Overall catch then declined in the 1990s, but in recent years has increased and is near the long-term average of 127 000 tonnes. The dynamics of sockeye salmon are demonstrated by recent events in the Fraser Columbia River fisheries. This fishery experienced a record abundance in 2010 with catch in excess of 10 million fish, up from only 1 119 in 2008 (DFO, 2001– 2011). Chum salmon (O. keta) is the third-most abundant species. Catches increased through the 1980s to a peak of 103 000 tonnes in 2000. Since then, chum catches have declined to near the long-term average of 70 000 tonnes. The bycatch of chum salmon in Bering Sea demersal trawl fisheries is currently a management issue. Chum salmon is an important species in many western Alaska rivers and the presence of sea-ranched Asian chum that feed in the eastern Bering Sea complicates management (NPFMC, 2011).
Long-term trends in the salmon catch in the Northeast Pacific appear to be favouring offshore species such as sockeye and pink salmon. These species have generally increased in the period of extended jurisdiction to 200 miles. However, the species that spend most of their ocean life near shore, such as chinook salmon (O. tschawytscha) and coho salmon (O. kisutch) have experienced a long-term downward trend in the same period. Some of this change may be the result of climate-induced changes in the forage base. In 1998–99, a shift from a warm to a cooler state in the region was observed to have induced a shift in the plankton community. This may account for some of observed trends in salmon survival (Peterson and Schwing, 2003).

Demersal resources, Northeast Pacific

Many of the most important demersal fish stocks of the Northeast Pacific followed the same pattern of rapid increase that marked the large salmon stocks of the sub-Arctic Pacific region (Bakun, 1999).

Demersal stocks in Alaska are all at or below full exploitation with no current overfishing occurring. In Canada, there are no overfished species either. Reference points are not fully developed for all monitored species, but fisheries are fully developed. All catch is allocated to stakeholders via an individual quota system that is designed to account for all catch. The current TACs are de-facto estimates of MSY that are adjusted periodically for changing stock condition (DFO, 2010).

Alaska pollock, sub-Arctic Pacific

Accordingly, the largest demersal fish population of them all was the complex of Alaska pollock stocks. These stocks were distributed over the breadth of the sub-Arctic Pacific, both the Northeast Pacific (Area 67) and the Northwest Pacific (Area 61). In much of the 1980s, Alaska pollock held the distinction of being the largest exploited demersal fish population in the world. The resource declined sharply as a result of reduced recruitment in the early 1980s. This appeared to be a result of anomalous ocean conditions, but the resource has now recovered and catch is projected to be about 1.4 million tonnes.
The eastern Bering Sea pollock fishery is a limited-entry fishery with quota shares allotted to participating vessels. Almost all fisheries in the region are managed by a similar quota system. One advantage is that catch is accurately monitored to ensure catches are limited to share amounts. This ensures that total catch does not exceed harvest limits. Fisheries on Alaska pollock are managed to ensure catch does not exceed that derived from a risk-averse FMSY. Pollock and other demersal species in Alaska are constrained to fall within total annual harvest limits, and aggregate catch cannot exceed the upper limit. In the eastern Bering Sea, this limit is set at 2 million tonnes (NPFMC, 2011).

Pacific cod and Pacific whiting, Northeast Pacific

The other large gadoid populations in Area 67 are Pacific cod and Pacific hake (or “Pacific whiting”). These species have followed a similar pattern of a rising catch from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s with moderate fluctuations at intermediate levels since 1995. Pacific cod are fully exploited in both the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Pacific hake is considered to be fully exploited. While the largest stock of Pacific cod is in the Bering Sea, Pacific hake is concentrated in the region off the west coasts of Canada and the United States of America.

Pacific halibut, Northeast Pacific

Of the important flatfish populations, the valuable Pacific halibut resource showed a rising trend through the 1980s. A slight decline occurred in the 1990s, followed by an upswing in catch with improved recruitment in the late 1990s to a peak of 41 000 tonnes in 2004. Since then, there has been a downward trend owing to reduced growth and recruitment, but stocks are expected to increase in future years. (Hare, 2010; Figure B11.5)

Other flatfish species, Northeast Pacific

The stocks of other flatfish species are lightly exploited. The total Alaska flatfish population is estimated to be almost 7 million tonnes in 2010 (Table D13). Yellowfin sole is a significant species in the catch and the major species in the Bering Sea flatfish fishery. The exploitation rate is low on nearly all species of flatfish, with the exception of petrale sole off Washington–Oregon–California, which is currently assessed as overfished. However, that assessment is being re-evaluated as catches have remained stable for several decades. The primary reason for the low exploitation of flatfish is the bottom trawl restrictions in place to minimize the bycatch of halibut and crab species. Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) has long been classified as below target abundance as a result of a failure to observe significant recruitment in trawl surveys since the late 1970s. It has now been found to be increasing in newly developed surveys of the outer continental shelf slope.
The current large populations of flatfish have shown indications of density-dependent growth in some species. Bering Sea northern rock sole underwent a ninefold increase in stock size from 1975 to 2010 (200 000 tonnes to 1.8 million tonnes). Length-at-age has declined significantly as the population has increased and expanded west towards the shelf edge. This density-dependent downward trend in size-at-age primarily affected year classes between 1979 and 1987. It also has been observed in the strong 2001–03 year classes in recent surveys. The exploitation rate remained low from 1979 to 2009, averaging only 3.4 percent as the fish are primarily caught in a limited roe fishery and as bycatch in the large yellowfin sole fishery (Matta, Black and Wilderbuer, 2010). Some scientists are postulating that similar density-dependent growth reduction is occurring in Pacific halibut.

Sablefish, Northeast Pacific

Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) is distributed throughout Area 67 and is a fully exploited species that has been allocated to many stakeholders. Sablefish were exploited heavily by distant-water fisheries and had been reduced to a low biomass by the late 1970s. In the late 1970s, sablefish had a very strong year class, similar to many other fish species (Hollowed, Bailey and Wooster, 1987). This year class bolstered the fishery and supported the development and growth of a North American fishery.

Groundfishes, off west coast of Canada

In the Groundfish Fishery Management Plan of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, there are more than 80 demersal fish species (groundfish). These species include more than 60 species of rockfish in the family Scorpaenidae, 7 roundfish species, 12 flatfish species, dogfish shark, skate, and a few miscellaneous bottom-dwelling marine fish species. Based on the standards of the Groundfish Fishery Management Plan for defining overfished demersal fish species, eight species are currently assessed as overfished by the NMFS in the area of the Pacific Fishery Management Council. These species are: bocaccio rockfish (Sebastes paucispinis), canary rockfish (S. pinniger), cowcod (S. levis), darkblotched rockfish (S. crameri), Pacific Ocean perch (S. alutus), widow rockfish (S. entomelas) and yelloweye rockfish (S. ruberrimus). Since the previous review of resources in FAO Statistical Area 67, two species have been removed from the overfished category. These species are Pacific hake (Merluccius productus) and lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus), as well as an additional species, petrale sole (FAO, 2005). Some of the rockfish (Sebastes spp.) such as widow rockfish are close to being declared rebuilt. However, other species that are very long-lived and have low growth and reproduction may require many years to rebuild.

Small pelagics, Northeast Pacific
Pacific herring, Northeast Pacific

Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) supports an extremely valuable fishery, much of it for high-valued roe destined for the Japanese market. Since the mid-1970s, herring have been fluctuating at low to moderate abundances. The abundance trends vary among the numerous stocks in the region, but, overall, the very recent trend is for fairly healthy abundance (Woodby et al., 2005). Similarly, herring catches have been stable at moderate levels since the 1970s. The catch is much reduced from the very high catches of herring taken by fisheries in the first half of the twentieth century. Overall, Alaska and British Columbia fisheries on herring are well managed for their long-term sustained yield. In southeast Alaska, herring abundance has been trending upwards since 1980. The Pacific herring population in Prince William Sound collapsed in 1993, four years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The cause has yet to be determined and the population has shown little sign of recovery. Indications are that disease may have been a factor, but factors related to habitat modification from the oil spill cannot be excluded as a cause. In the southern end of the range, herring stocks are at very low levels in the region from California to Puget Sound. This may be related to long-term climate change.

Pacific sardine, Northeast Pacific

Sardine stocks have shown a strong resurgence in the Northeast Pacific since the mid-1990s. The biomass for Pacific sardine increased rapidly through the 1980s and 1990s, peaking at 1.57 million tonnes in 2000. The biomass has subsequently trended downwards to 537 173 tonnes in 2010 (Hill et al., 2010). Recruitment increased rapidly through the mid-1990s, peaking at 17.156 billion fish in 1997, 19.743 billion in 1998 and 18.578 billion in 2003. Recruitment was notably lower from 2006 to 2009. As the stock grew, it expanded its range from southern California towards Oregon and the northern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. At this time, it is not clear whether large sardine populations will persist in these northern regions, or contract to a more southerly distribution. In a prior increase in the sardine population in the 1920s, the species also increased in British Columbia but then contracted until the recent expansion of the 1990s (McFarlane and Beamish, 1999).

Invertebrates, Northeast Pacific
Crabs and shrimps, Northeast Pacific

Crab and shrimp are the main invertebrates in the Northeast Pacific harvest. Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) populations may currently be declining from historic highs of the early 2000s. King crab (Paralithodes) catches have been stable for the past decade, but are far below the record harvests of the 1970s. The stock is expected to increase further in size through improved management as this fishery has recently entered into a catch share management programme. As in other rationalized fisheries, catch should improve and the fishery should have a reduced impact on crab populations. Effort has decreased and so has the handling mortality of sublegal-sized crabs that are released. Snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) stocks have highly variable recruitment and fluctuating populations. Catches were high through the 1980s and 1990s, but then declined sharply in 2000. Starting in 2008, the catch began to increase again, but catches remain well below those of earlier years. Pandalid shrimp catches were high in Alaska until the 1980s. However, more recently, they have been very low, probably as a result of the sharp and rapid increase of gadoid predators. In southern regions of Area 67, catches have been relatively stable and  increasing.

Shellfishes, coastal zone of Northeast Pacific

In the coastal zone, there are fisheries for clam, oysters, abalone sea urchin and sea cucumber. Clam populations have suffered local problems as a result of to disease or pollution. However, overall invertebrate catch is increasing primarily owing to increased demand from Asian markets. Coastal species that are taken include northern abalone (Haliotis kamtshatkana) and geoduck clam (Panopea abrupta). Catches of intertidal clams (Venerupis philippinarum, Protothaca staminea and Saxidomus gigantea), razor clam (Siliqua patula), and red sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus) are currently stable or increasing in areas where commercial harvest occurs.

Habitat Bio
Climatic Zone: Polar.  

Water Area Overview
Spatial Scale: Regional

The Northeast Pacific (Figure B11.1) covers almost 8 million km2, of which 1.3 million km2 are shelf area. It encompasses several distinct “large marine ecosystems” including the California Current, the Gulf of Alaska, and Bering Sea. The dynamics of these systems are dominated by the Aleutian Low pressure cell – one of the most intense, quasi-permanent atmospheric systems on earth. In the Gulf of Alaska, the result is a strong coastal convergence that drives anticyclonic coastal flow around the periphery of the Gulf of Alaska. This interacts with coastal runoff to produce embedded frontal zones of concentrated biological processes. The eastern Bering Sea is a shallow shelf system, characterized by wind and tidal mixing with shelf-sea frontal currents. Each of the three domains, California Coast Current, Gulf of Alaska Gyre and eastern Bering Sea, contains abundant fishery resources that support catches of a wide variety of species.
In the past decade, the fisheries in the region have undergone a series of regulatory and market-driven reforms to reduce fishing effort to sustainable levels. “Boom and bust” fisheries have been stabilized to ensure catches are sustainable from available resources. Fishers have been able to improve fishing and marketing to achieve stable, profitable fisheries. Accompanying these actions have been management practices designed to improve monitoring and maintain catches within biological guidelines. The net result has been a generally stable catch in most fisheries. The greatest variability has been in the cods, primarily Alaska pollock. Variability and uncertainty in environmental conditions will continue to produce unexpected abundance changes over relatively short periods.

Figure B11.1 The Northeast Pacific (Area 67)
Water Area Overview
Aq Res Struct
Biological Stock: No



Total nominal catches for the Northeast Pacific (Area 67) increased from about 600 000 tonnes in 1950 to slightly more than 3.3 million tonnes in 1992. Since that time, the aggregate catch has varied between 2.3 million and 3.3 million tonnes, with a reduction in the most recent years as a result of poor pollock recruitment. In 2009, total catch reached nearly 2.5 million tonnes (Figure B11.2 and Table D13).


Figure B11.2 Annual nominal catches by ISSCAAP Group in the Northeast Pacific (Area 67)

Alaska (walleye) pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) has contributed the largest part of the catches since the early 1970s. It has been between 40 and 50 percent of the total catch for most of that period (Figure B11.2). Catches of Alaska pollock declined from 2.2 million tonnes in 1996 to between 800 000 and 900 000 tonnes in 2009–2010 (Figure B11.3). The cause of the sharp decline in Alaska pollock is primarily linked to three very warm years in the eastern Bering Sea that led to extremely poor year classes (Ianelli et al., 2010). Recruitment in subsequent years has improved and catches are expected to rise in 2011 to almost 1.4 million tonnes.

Figure B11.3 Annual nominal catches of selected species in ISSCAAP Group 32, Northeast Pacific (Area 67)

Traditionally, ISSCAAP Group 23 (salmons, trouts, smelts) has accounted for the secondlargest contribution. However, in the past two decades, the harvest of flatfish has grown to equal and exceed the catch of salmon in some years. The average annual catch of salmon from 1978 to 2010 was 396 000 tonnes, or 14 percent of the Northeast Pacific fisheries landings. In the same period, the flatfish catch grew to 516 000 tonnes, or 18 percent of the total catch. Salmon catches in Area 67 showed an increasing trend from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s (Figure B11.4). This was mainly as a result of stock improving in the north of the region. Since that time, catches have decreased and have been fluctuating between 300 000 and 400 000 tonnes. The strong increase observed though the 1980s to early 1990s reflected a period of good environmental conditions and cessation of the high seas salmon fisheries. The catch comprises five species and, in recent years, it appears that some species are producing record catches (sockeye and pink salmon). At the same time, other species have been less productive: west coast coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) salmon stocks in California and in Western Alaska.

Figure B11.4 Annual nominal catches of selected species in ISSCAAP Group 23, Northeast Pacific (Area 67)

For Area 67, the flatfish catch is dominated by landings from the eastern Bering Sea. Here, the yellowfin sole (Limanda aspera) fishery is the largest flatfish fishery in the world (Wilderbuer, Nichol and Ianelli, 2010) (Figure B11.5). This species is followed by northern rock sole (Lepidopsetta polyxystra), flathead sole (Hippoglossoides elassodon) and other eastern Bering Sea flatfish. The flatfish resource in the Bering Sea grew rapidly following the end of large removals by distant-water fleets. As the resource grew, the catch in Area 67 peaked at just over 700 000 tonnes in 1979. Since then, the catch has declined primarily as a result of to regulatory action to reduce the bycatch of halibut, crab and salmon species that are caught in other fisheries in Alaska, British Columbia (Canada), and along the United States west coast. Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) is a valuable species and the focus of many trawl fishery regulations. The catch nearly doubled from the late 1970s to a peak of about 40 000 tonnes in the mid-1980s. It then declined somewhat before increasing again in the late 1990s. The catch then declined again owing to apparent changes in growth. The International Halibut Commission (Hare, 2010) attributes some of the decline to increased biomass of a competitor, arrow-tooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias) (Figure B11.6). In the Gulf of Alaska, arrow-tooth flounder has become the most abundant demersal species (NMFS, 2010).

Figure B11.5 Annual nominal catches of selected species in ISSCAAP Groups 32, 33 and 34, Northeast Pacific (Area 67)
Figure B11.6 Biomass estimates for selected species in ISSCAAP Group 31, Northeast Pacific (Area 67)

Catches of ISSCAAP Groups 32 (cods, hakes, haddocks), 33 (miscellaneous coastal fishes) and 34 (miscellaneous demersal fishes) species have been increasing, and catches have been regulated to comply with specific regulations. The most variable of these stocks is Pacific hake (Merluccius productus), also commonly called Pacific whiting, which exhibits highly variable recruitment. It underwent a climate-driven decline in the 1990s followed by a recovery starting with a strong 1998 year class. Similarly, the largest stock in the group, Bering Sea pollock, declined strongly following extremely low recruitment in 2001–03 (Ianelli et al., 2010). As these poor year classes became of fishable and reproductive age, catch limits were reduced dramatically in  2008–10. Currently, above-average recruitment has been estimated from the 2006 and 2008 year classes and the stock has recovered above Bmsy levels. The biomass of eastern Bering Sea Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) increased from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. It declined to about half of the peak by the mid-1990s since when it has been estimated to be stable with moderate fluctuations. Generally, cod catch trends mirror pollock, and the catch has ranged between 200 000 and 300 000 tonnes since 1990 (Figure B11.7).
Catches of the valuable sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria), commonly called blackcod, have slowly declined from a peak in the late 1970s (Figure B11.7). Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) has shown a similar decline and subsequent low stable catch in recent years. In the Pacific Fisheries Management Council management area (Washington–Oregon–California), lingcod was declared overfished for a number of years until it was recently declared recovered. Lingcod is a valuable recreational fish, and catch limits are in place to maintain availability to the recreational sector.
Rockfish (Sebastes spp.) as a group comprises many species. They are found from the Bering Sea south into Mexico. The most abundant rockfish, Pacific Ocean perch (Sebastes alutus), supported an important foreign fishery in the 1960s. However, since 1980, catches have been a small fraction of those reported earlier (Figure B11.7, Table D13). Rockfish are a long-lived, relatively slow-growing group of species and, hence, many stocks became overfished. While many stocks are recovering, some remain classified as overfished and require further rebuilding. Therefore, total Sebastes catch is anticipated to remain about 50 000 tonnes for the next few years.

Figure B11.7 Annual nominal catches of selected species in ISSCAAP Groups 32, 33 and 34, Northeast Pacific (Area 67)

King crab (Paralithodes kamchaticus) catches dominated ISSCAAP Group 44 (king crabs, squat-lobsters) species from the early 1960s to the late 1970s. It then declined owing to a combination of reduced recruitment and high levels of fishing effort. Since the early 1980s, king crab abundance has been low and stable, and the catch has averaged about 10 000–11 000 tonnes (Figure B11.8, Table D13). Snow crab (principally Chionocetes opilio but also C. bairdi) in ISSCAAP Group 42 (crabs, sea-spiders) catches were about
equal in catch to king crab in the late 1980s. Catch increased rapidly through the 1980s, but then declined before increasing again as a result of strong recruitment in the 1990s that was not sustained. Consequently, catches declined and continue to be low. Wide fluctuations are common for other sea-spiders and crabs (mostly snow crab). The 2004 harvest was the lowest at just over 11 000 tonnes and catches since have climbed to 20 000–30 000 tonnes.
The other major commercial species in Group 42 is Dungeness crab (Cancer magister), which is primarily harvested from California to southeast Alaska. It has had an increasing catch trend since the late 1980s. The largest catches were between 2003 and 2006, when the catch exceeded 40 000 tonnes –almost double that at the beginning of the period. However, since then, the catch has declined and is currently small. Historically, Dungeness crab has a cyclic abundance and may be currently trending towards a period of reduced abundance and catch.
Squid, shrimp, and other invertebrates are also caught in the Northeast Pacific. Pink shrimp (Pandalus jordani) are caught primarily off the west coast of the United States of America, while Pandalus borealis is the most abundant species of shrimp in Alaska. Large pink shrimp catches were made in Alaska until the early 1980s. Catches then declined rapidly, believed to be a result of increased predation by rapidly increasing cod and pollock stocks (Anderson and Piatt, 1999). Catches increased in the 1990s and have remained relatively stable and below 30 000 tonnes since the 1990s (Table D13). Other shrimp species as well as sea urchins, sea cucumbers, clams and oysters are part of the invertebrate catch but the total catches of all of these species are in the range of thousands of tonnes. Squid, primarily Loligo opalescens, is a significant portion of the invertebrate catch. The largest catch occurs in central and southern California, and the total catch has been as high as 119 000 tonnes in 2000 and almost 95 000 tonnes in 2010.  A sharp drop in catch occurred in 1998. This was attributed to a strong El Niño event (Zeidberg, Hamner and Nezlin, 2006). Since the early 1980s, another squid that has appeared in large numbers is the jumbo squid (Dosidicus gigas). It has been found to have a significant predatory impact on pelagic fishes (Field et al., 2007).

Figure B11.8 Annual nominal catches of selected species in ISSCAAP Groups 42 and 44, Northeast Pacific (Area 67)

Compared with other FAO Statistical Areas, ISSCAAP Group 35 (herrings, sardines, anchovies) does not make a large  contribution to catches in Area 67. Herring are found throughout the region, but the greatest concentrations are in British Columbia and Alaska. Catches of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) increased as stocks increased from a period of heavy fishing pressure in the 1950s and 1960s. Catches increased throughout the 1980s and then rose to a peak of 102 000 tonnes in 1992 (Figure B11.9, Table D13). Catches then trended downward until 2008 when they began to increase again. The 2010 catch of Pacific herring was almost 60 000 tonnes.
The sardine (Sardinops caeruleus) catch has been increasing in the Northeast Pacific. The California sardine fishery in Area 67 had essentially collapsed before FAO statistics began to be collected. Sardine catches increased from almost zero between 1950 and 1998, when the catch of sardine began to increase and then rose rapidly (Figure B11.9). Since 1999, the catch has continually increased up to a peak of 51 000 tonnes in 2005. Since then, the catch has declined slightly. Along with the increase in catch, the stock has expanded from southern California and has made a summer migration that reaches the north end of Vancouver Island. At present, it is unclear if the sardine abundance has peaked. The future pattern in California sardine distribution and abundance is unclear. In coming years, the stock may continue to expand its range and remain at high abundance, or contract its distribution  and overall abundance.

Figure B11.9 Annual nominal catches of selected species in ISSCAAP Group 35, Northeast Pacific (Area 67)
Management unit: No


Since the late 1970s, there have been a few above-average recruitment events, but generally not large enough to sustain a stable population. Catch has been trending downward from high biomasses in the 1980s. In the 1990s, several demersal fish species experienced reduced year-class success (McFarlane, King and Beamish, 2000). Year-class success has improved since 1999 for many species and it is clear that ocean conditions are an important factor in determining abundance and trends. At present (2011), the North Pacific appears to have moved back into a cool state following a prolonged warm period (1977–1998). Moreover, the fisheries themselves have been totally restructured from those that existed at the start of the establishment of extended national jurisdiction in 1977. At that time, demersal fisheries were largely undertaken by distant-water fleets. The Canadian and United States fisheries for salmon, crab, herring and halibut were open access and largely unregulated. Today the distant-water fleets have been replaced with domestic fleets. These fleets have been reduced in size and primarily operate under individual catch allocations in one form or another. This has also occurred in some of the salmon, halibut, herring, crab and other fisheries.

The current management regime prevents overfishing and allows fishers the control to optimize fishing effort and improve yield. One example is in the west coast whiting fishery, in which the establishment of an at-sea cooperative fishing strategy allowed participating vessels to divide the available quota. The industry then reduced the number of vessels in the fishery, reduced bycatch by more efficient targeting and increased yields by 16 percent to upwards of 30 percent. These increases in yield were also a result of less capture damage and the ability to  develop products with higher flesh recovery that could not be produced when the vessels were competing to take the maximum catch per vessel (Bodal, 2003).

Marine and Inland Fisheries Service, Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources Use and Conservation Division. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department “Review of the state of world marine fishery resources” . FAO FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE TECHNICAL PAPER. No. 569. Rome, FAO. 2011. Click to open

The bibliographic references are available through the hyperlink displayed in "Source of Information".


The authors thank the following individuals and agencies for their contributions to this chapter: Jim Ianelli from the NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center, DFO Pacific Region, Denby Lloyd from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, John Devore from the Pacific Fisheries Management Council and David Colpo from the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.

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