Discover California commercial fisheries

Commercial fisheries are an important part of California's economy. In 2011, approximately $201 million dollars in ex-vessel revenue (the amount paid directly to fishermen) came from commercial fishery landings, and more than 120,000 jobs on and off the water were supported by the state's seafood industry (NOAA 2011). Fishing communities from Crescent City in the north to San Diego in the south are centers of this activity, providing a diverse supply of seafood and a visible reminder of California's maritime heritage.

Fisheries are complex and dynamic systems, where people and nature are inextricably linked. While we cannot address all aspects of California fisheries here, this website provides information and insight to enhance understanding of how they work. We encourage you to visit other sources, including those listed throughout the website, as they provide information that complements the material presented here. Note that we use the term fish to refer to all types of finfish (e.g., salmon), shellfish (e.g., crab) and other invertebrate species (e.g., squid) that are caught in California.

This website provides information about key features of California's commercial fisheries statewide and by region including:


Commercial fishing communities

Fishing communities are an integral part of the ocean ecosystem. After all, boats don’t fish, people do! And it’s not just about the fishermen.

fish market

Types of commercial fisheries

What are the major commercial fisheries in California? What  types of fishing gear and methods do fishermen use to catch these species? Get a sense of the great diversity.

sea urchins in a net

Fisheries seasonality

When are certain types of seafood in season? It depends on where the fish are and what the regulations allow. Check out this section and the regional posters for examples of the variety of seafood caught in California.

poster preview

Statewide commercial fishery activity

What are California’s top fisheries? Does fishery activity vary over time or across locations? Get a sense of patterns and trends.

crab trap

Measuring fishery activity

How is fishery activity measured? How and why does that activity vary and change? Many factors are at play.

graph of information about sea urchins

The ocean environment

What makes the ocean waters off California so productive for fisheries? Learn about the key physical features, currents and oceanographic conditions.

coastal ocean with rocks

 The management context

How are fisheries managed? Fisheries are managed through state and federal processes using a mix of regulations and other measures.

seal of state of california

Fisheries by region

Are fisheries the same throughout California? Take a closer look at each of the state's five coastal regions.

regions of California

Discover California Commercial Fisheries is a project led by California Sea Grant Extension Program (SGEP) Specialists Carolynn Culver and Carrie Pomeroy, with web pages designed and edited by Melissa Stevens, CASG Project Specialist, UC Santa Cruz, and Gillian Clague, SGEP Research Assistant, UC Santa Barbara. Many thanks to Debbie Marshall, former Research Associate at the CASG Extension Program office in Eureka, for graphics and other technical support, and to several fishing community members, resource managers and scientists who reviewed this website. The information presented here is the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the views of those who have contributed materials and information.

  • Principal Investigators

    Carrie Culver
    University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  • Principal Investigators

    carrie pomeroy
    UC Santa Cruz