South Coast

south coast

The South Coast region includes several fishing communities in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. Historically, this area was known as the “tuna capital of the world," hosting a large fleet of tuna seiners and tuna-processing canneries, along with a variety of other fisheries. By the early 1980s, most of the canneries had moved offshore (to US territories and other countries). This significant change was due in large part to lower processing costs and the shift of many fishing operations to the western Pacific to avoid conflicts with dolphins and porpoises. Nonetheless, the region’s fishing communities have remained vital due to the continued productivity of the ocean ecosystem, the proximity to large urban centers and extensive port infrastructure, which connect them to domestic and global markets.



Fishing communities

This region encompasses three counties with eleven primary port-based fishing communities (listed north to south):

Los Angeles County Orange County San Diego County
Santa Monica  Huntington Harbor Oceanside
San Pedro Newport Beach Mission Bay
Terminal Island Dana Point Point Loma
Long Beach   San Diego
Types of commercial fisheries

Although the commercial tuna fishery here is much less active than in the past, this region has continued to support a variety of fisheries, with coastal pelagic species (market squid and sardine in particular), spiny lobster and red sea urchin among the most active today. However, the mix of fisheries and level of activity in each port and overall varies as a function of changes in species distribution and availability, market demand, regulations, physical infrastructure, buyers and other factors.

In 2013, commercial fishermen landed more than 117.7 million pounds (53,500 metric tons) of seafood in this region with an ex-vessel value (amount paid to fishermen) of nearly $45.8 million. The top fisheries (species-gear combinations, in alphabetical order) in terms of pounds landed and/or ex-vessel value included:

See our regional seafood posters and the California commercial landings data (links below) to learn more about the fisheries of this region.

Ex-Vessel Value (≥ $1.5 million each) Pounds Landed (≥ 500,000 pounds each)
Coastal pelagic finfish (anchovy, mackerel, sardine) seine Coastal pelagic finfish seine
Market squid seine Highly migratory species (shark, swordfish, tuna) gillnet, harpoon
Red sea urchin dive Market squid seine
Spiny lobster trap Red sea urchin dive
Spot prawn trap, trawl Spiny lobster trap
Fisheries Seasonality

The chart below shows the times of year when the major commercial fisheries of the South Coast region are most active. Other smaller fisheries, while also important, are not shown here. This chart combines all gear types that target the indicated species. Note that fishing activity does not necessarily start at the beginning or stop at the end of a month, and that the timing and types of fisheries may vary from year to year. (See state and federal commercial fishing regulations for current and specific dates.)

Seasonality of selected South Coast California fisheries in 2013

The Local Ocean Environment

The North Central Coast region is characterized by several unique geographical features that affect ocean conditions and weather and include:

  • Bodega Head
  • Point Arena and Point Reyes
  • Farallon Islands
  • San Francisco Bay

Several of these features are part of the region’s upwelling system, in which cold, nutrient-rich waters stream from Point Arena south to Point Reyes, Cordell Bank and the Farallon Islands. While much of the region’s seafloor habitat is soft (sand or mud) bottom, there also are rocky reefs, pinnacles, and outcrops. All of these features contribute to prime habitat (including rich feeding grounds) that support the region’s many and diverse fisheries.

point reyes
Point Reyes, California. Credit: Common Murre Restoration Project, USFWS.

Note: Management authority and/or measures may vary for a given fishery depending on species and/or gear type.

The Management Context

The region's commercial fisheries are managed by the state through the California Legislature, the Fish and Game Commission and the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW); by the federal government through the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS); or by both (see Management Context  for more information). The following table shows which government entity (or entities) has management authority and the management measures used for some of the region’s most active fisheries. 

Fishery Management Authority Management Measures
  State Federal Limited entry Quotas Time/area closures Species size/sex rules Gear restrictions
Coastal pelagic finfish seine  
Market squid seine    
Red sea urchin dive    
Spiny lobster trap    
Spot prawn trap      
Swordfish gillnet, harpoon      

Note: Management authority and/or measures may vary for a given fishery depending on species and/or gear type

Information Sources

CDFW Commercial Landings Information
NMFS Commercial Fisheries Statistics
Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) Pacific Fisheries Information Network (PacFIN)
Southern California Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS)