U.S. West Coast Albacore troll and pole fishing:

Since 1995 coastal and distant-water nations have moved toward management of tuna stocks worldwide. American Fishermen’s Research Foundation (AFRF) and Western Fishboat Owners Association (WFOA) have been deeply involved in most Pacific-oriented Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMO’s). AFRF has participated as a non-governmental organization (NGO). WFOA members have also acted as advisors to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (WPFMC), various state entities when albacore is an issue, and the ongoing negotiations of the U.S./Canada albacore treaty. We believe in fair and equitable conservation measures applied multi-laterally when necessary to preserve the stocks for future harvests.

Internationally in the Pacific there are two RFMO’s that manage and regulate the albacore and other HMS species. The IATTC basically manages the eastern Pacific Ocean east of longitude 150W and the WCPFC manages west of 150W. The U.S. belongs to both bodies. The IATTC is formed by mainly Latin American countries focused more on other tuna species, while the WCPFC is formed predominantly by Pacific Island Nations of the western Pacific region along with Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Korea, the U.S., and Canada. The WCPFC also has the Northern Committee made up of nations that fish north of 20 N and a few others to advise the full body on measures. Both also participate in the International Science Committee and Albacore Working Group.

Federally the U.S. fishermen are managed by the PFMC under its HMS management plan and the WPFMC under its pelagic management plan. Theoretically the nations in the RFMO process internationally try to fit their domestic management measure into what is adopted at the international level. So far this has worked, but nations involved sometimes tend to either ignore international measures or go way beyond their scope. It has always been the job of AFRF and WFOA to help guide this process to something fair and equitable.

What are highly migratory species?

The term derives from Article 64 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Although the Convention does not provide an operational definition of the term, an annex to it lists species considered highly migratory by parties to the Convention. In general, these species have a wide geographic distribution, both inside and outside of countries’ 200-mile zones, and they undertake migrations of significant but variable distances across oceans for feeding or reproduction. They are pelagic species, which means they do not live near the sea floor, and mostly live in the open ocean, although they may spend part of their life cycle in nearshore waters. They are harvested by U.S. commercial and recreational fishers and by foreign fishing fleets. Only a small fraction of the total harvest is taken within U.S. waters.

The HMS Fishery Management Plan (FMP) adopted by the PFMC in 2002 authorizes the Council to actively manage the following species:

Tunas: north Pacific albacore, yellowfin, bigeye, skipjack, and northern bluefin

Sharks: common thresher, pelagic thresher, bigeye thresher, shortfin mako, blue

Billfish/swordfish: striped marlin, Pacific swordfish

Other: dorado (also known as dolphinfish and mahi-mahi)

Under the FMP, the Council monitors other species for informational purposes, and some species — including great white sharks, megamouth sharks, basking sharks, Pacific halibut and Pacific salmon — are designated as prohibited. If fishers targeting highly migratory species catch these species, they must release them immediately.

The Fishery and Gear:

Albacore tuna troll and pole fishing is among the few remaining open access fisheries on the West Coast. However, some members of the fishing industry are concerned that reductions in other fisheries (like groundfish) could push more people into HMS fisheries, increasing fishing pressure.

As a result of these concerns, the Council may, but has not due to stock health and no effort increases consider developing a limited entry program to control excess capacity. The Council adopted a control date of March 9, 2000, in case a limited entry program is needed in the near future. This date was announced in the Federal Register as an advance notice to the public that a limited entry program may be adopted, and that any new entrants in the fishery after the control date may not qualify for a permit. The announcement applies to all commercial and charter fisheries for highly migratory species. Control dates are established to minimize the rush of new entrants into a fishery that often occurs when limited entry is being considered. It should be noted the FMP does not include a limited entry program, but an amendment to the plan could be developed sometime in the future to establish one.

Basic Fisheries Management Techniques:

The following is excerpted from the National Research Council’s 1999 “Sharing the Fish” report and provides an overview of basic fishery management tools.


Input controls are the oldest type of fishery management tool. Designed to limit either the number of people fishing or the efficiency of fishing, input controls are the type of measure adopted when a fishery is first managed. Input controls include restrictions on gear, vessels, area fished, time fished, or numbers of people fishing. They apply to both commercial and sport fisheries, and may be applied to an entire fishery or to segments of it. Input controls are considered to be an indirect means of limiting the exploitation of fish stocks because they do not directly control the amount of catch.


Licenses and license endorsements may be used to certify fishermen or vessels, without limitation on the numbers issued, or they may be used as a management measure to limit the number and types of vessels or fishermen that can participate in the fishery. License limitations are intended to limit fishing capacity and effort, but their effect on either is indirect. Limited licenses are used both in federal fisheries, such as the Hawaiian lobster and Pacific groundfish fisheries, and in state fisheries, such as the California sea urchin and Oregon pink shrimp fisheries. Licenses and endorsements can also be linked to vessel and gear requirements. In some fisheries, limited licenses are tradable.

Fleet capacity can be controlled only partially through license limitation. If licenses do not stipulate a maximum vessel size or other limits on fishing power or capacity, the capacity of the fleet can drift upwards as small vessels are replaced with larger ones. The problem arises because size is only one dimension of fishing power. Also, attempts to control size can lead to adaptations that are inefficient or unseaworthy.


Output controls are management techniques that directly limit catch and thus a significant level of fishing mortality (which also includes mortality from bycatch, ghost fishing, and habitat degradation due to fishing). Output controls can be used to set catch limits for an entire fleet or fishery, such as a total allowable catch. They can also be used to set catch limits for specific vessels (trip limits, individual vessel quotas), owners, or operators (individual fishing quotas), so that the sum of the catch limits for individuals or vessels equals the total allowable catch for the entire fishery. Output controls rely on the ability to monitor total catch. This can be achieved by either (1) measuring total landed catch with reliable landings records, port-sampling data, and some estimates of discarded or unreported catch; or (2) measuring the actual total catch with at-sea observer coverage or verifiable logbook data.

Total Allowable Catch:

Total allowable catch is a management measure that limits the total output from a fishery by setting the maximum weight or number of fish that can be harvested. TAC-based management requires that landings be monitored and that fishing operations stop when the TAC for the fishery is met.

A TAC is based on stock assessments and other indicators of biological productivity, usually derived from both fishery-dependent (catch) and fishery independent (biological survey) data. Data collected from fishermen, processors, or dockside sampling can be combined with at-sea observations and independent fishery survey cruises to provide information about the total biomass, age distribution, and number of fish harvested.

Typically, the TAC is determined on an annual basis, but then partitioned across seasons. To the extent that a TAC is well estimated and enforced, it can control total fishing mortality on a stock (e.g., Pacific halibut).

Trip Limits and Bag Limits:

Trip limits and bag limits are measures that pace landings by limiting the amount of harvest of a species in a given trip. Trip limits are applied in commercial fisheries when there is interest in spacing out the landings over time or a desire to specify maximum landings sizes, and they are usually accompanied by a limit on the frequency of landings.

Individual Fishing Quotas:

IFQs are a fishery management tool used in the Alaska halibut and sablefish, wreckfish, and surf clam/ocean quahog fisheries in the United States, and in other fisheries throughout the world, that allocates a certain portion of the TAC to individual vessels, fishermen, or other eligible recipients based on initial qualifying criteria.

Individual Vessel Quotas:

IVQs are used in a number of fisheries worldwide, including some Canadian and Norwegian fisheries. IVQs are similar to IFQs, excepted that they divide the TAC among vessels registered in a fishery, rather than among individuals.

For more details on management of the albacore fishery, contact us.