Facts About California Fishing

Economic Impact

California's fishing industry ranks among the top five seafood producing states in the U.S. California fishermen delivered more than 461 million pounds of high quality seafood to market in 1996. From San Diego in southern California to Crescent City in the north, the fishing industry represents an important source of jobs, from fishermen to fish handlers to allied industries such as boat builders and gear suppliers. In 1996, 9,938 commercial fishermen and 347 fish receivers harvested and marketed California seafood for public enjoyment.


Approximately 300 varieties of fish and shellfish are native to the Golden State and comprise the California catch each year. California fishermen use a variety of harvesting methods to deliver this catch, following regulations enacted by the Legislature, the California Department of Fish and Game and Fish and Game Commission, and for fisheries operating in federal waters, the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The major species represented by the California Seafood Council include bonito; California halibut; mackerel, groundffish, including rockfish (commonly called Pacific red snapper), sablefish (also called black cod), soles and sanddabs; sardines; white seabass; sharks; swordfish and tunas. Shellfish species include a variety of crabs, California spiny lobster, Pacific Ocean (pink) shrimp, prawns, and market squid.

Geographic Area

California's coastline extends more than 1,000 miles, from Crescent City in the north to San Diego in the south. Ocean waters near the Farallon Islands off San Francisco and Channel Islands off southern California also comprise important fishing grounds.

The ocean harvest in northern California includes sea urchins, Dungeness crab, salmon, pink shrimp, and groundfish. Central California coastal waters produce several species of sole and rockfish, as well as squid, swordfish, and albacore tuna. The ocean off southern California, beginning at Point Conception north of Santa Barbara, yields mackerel, squid, sardines and bonito. In fact, these "wetfish" make up more than 50% of the state's annual commercial catch by weight. Other important southern California fisheries include swordfish and shark, spiny lobster, rock crab, rockfish, California halibut, prawns, sea cucumbers and sea urchins.

State of California

The California Legislature or the California Fish and Game Commission regulate fishing activity within the state's three-mile limit, based on recommendations of the Department of Fish and Game (CDFG). The CDFG enforces regulations, collects license fees and use taxes on local seafood harvested, and performs research on California fish and fisheries.

Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC)

The PFMC was established in 1976 by federal legislation known as the Magnuson Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (FCMA). This act was passed in response to growing concern for unregulated foreign fishing in US waters.

Commercial and recreational fishing interests, as well as state and federal officials make up the PFMC. Biologists, economists, and industry representatives also serve as advisors. Decisions made by the PFMC must be approved by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

California Seafood Council, PO Box 91540,		Santa Barbara, CA 93190 +1-805-569-8050