This glossary of fisheries terms from terms frequently used in fisheries as well as terms that appear in the Fish & Fishery Fact pages and the Voices of the Bay Fisheries Education Curriculum.
The very deep benthic communities near the bottom of oceans, at depths of 4,000-6,000 meters (13,123 to 19,685 feet); this zone remains in perpetual darkness and never receives daylight.
Best Available Science (BAS)
The term "best-available science" comes from the second National Standard listed in the Magnuson-Stevens Act and is the informational standard mandated for decision making.
Catch The total number or poundage of fish captured from an area over some period of time. The catch may take place in an area different from where the fish are landed. Note that catch, harvest, and landings have different definitions.
Catch Per Unit of Effort (CPUE) The quantity of fish caught (in number or weight) with one standard unit of fishing effort. CPUE is often considered an index of fish biomass (or abundance). Sometimes referred to as catch rate. CPUE may be used as a measure of economic efficiency of fishing as well as an index of fish abundance.
Circle Hooks A type of fishhook that is sharply curved back in a circular shape. Since the circle hook catches the fish on the lips at the corner of its mouth, it greatly decreases the mortality rates of released fish as compared to J-hook that is swallowed by the fish causing it to set in the gills or vital organs.
Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) To encourage and assist states in developing coastal zone management programs, to coordinate state activities, and to safeguard the regional and national interests in the coastal zone.
Commercial Extinction Species declines below a level where it is economically feasible to target as a fishery and have shown no sign of recovery, even though they are no longer targeted (e.g., Atlantic Halibut, Pacific Abalone).
Common-Property Resource A term that indicates a resource owned by the public. For example, it can be fish in public waters, trees on public land, and the air. The government regulates the use of a common-property resource to ensure its future benefits.
Controlled Access Also called limited access and limited entry. A program that restricts the persons or vessels that may participate in a fishery. License limitation and individual fishing quota programs are two forms of controlled access.
The portion of the water column that receives only faint filtered sunlight during the daytime. Also called the twilight zone or the mesopelagic zone. The depth of this zone depends on the clarity or murkiness of the water. On average, this zone extends from 660-3,300 feet (200 to 1,000 m).
A business that sells, transports, and delivers goods to a retailer or other entity that then sells to the end customer. Price conscious consumers often try to avoid further mark-ups in price by purchasing directly from a distributor. Also called a wholesaler.
Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management (EBFM)
An approach that takes major ecosystem components and services - both structural and functional - into account in managing fisheries. Its goal is to rebuild and sustain populations, species, biological communities, and marine ecosystems at high levels of productivity and biological diversity so as not to jeopardize a wide range or goods and services from marine ecosystems while providing food, revenues, and recreation for humans.
Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM)
A broader more comprehensive management approach that takes into account the interaction of ecological, economic, cultural, and regulatory factors impacting the overall health of an ecosystem. Specific factors may include pollution, coastal development, harvest pressure, predator/prey, and other ecological interactions, as well as nearby watershed management.
An intrinsic ecosystem characteristic related to the set of conditions and processes whereby an ecosystem maintains its integrity. Functions include such processes as decomposition, production, nutrient cycling, and fluxes of nutrients and energy.
The benefits people obtain from ecosystems. The include provisioning services, such as food and water; regulating services, such as flood and disease control; cultural services, such as spiritual and cultural benefits; and supporting services, such as nutrient cycling, that maintain the conditions for life on Earth.
Environmental Assessment (EA)
As part of the National Environmental Policy Act process, an environmental assessment is a concise public document that provides evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an environmental impact statement of a Finding of No Significant Impact.
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
As part of the National Environmental Policy Act process, an environmental impact statement is an analysis of the expected impacts resulting from the implementation of a fisheries management or development plan (or some proposed action) on the environment. EISs are required for all fishery management plans. The purpose of the EIS is to ensure the fishery management plan gives appropriate consideration to environmental values in order to prevent harm to the environment.
The biomass that is available to a unit of fishing effort. Defined as the sum of the population biomass at age (calculated as the mean within the fishing year) multiplied by the age-specific availability to the fishery.
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
The regional from 3-200 nautical miles seaward of the 48 contiguous states, Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S.-affiliated islands. The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regulates fisheries within this area.
A factory ship, also known as a fish-processing vessel, is a large ocean-going vessel with extensive on-board facilities for processing and freezing caught fish. According to the FAO, there are about 38,400 vessels greater than 100 tons in the world's factory fishing fleet.
The official daily publication for Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as Executive Orders and other Presidential documents. Fisheries regulations are not considered final until they are published in the Federal Register.
The catching, taking, or harvesting of fish; the attempted catching, taking, or harvesting of fish; any other activity that can reasonably be expected to result in the catching, taking, or harvesting of fish; any operations at sea in support of, or in preparation for, any of these activities.
A fish ladder, also known as a fish way, fish pass, or fish steps, is a structure on or around artificial barriers (such as dams and locks) to facilitate diadromous fishes' natural migration. Most fish ladders enable fish to pass around the barriers by swimming and leaping up a series of relatively low steps (hence the term ladder) into the waters on the other side.
The people involved, species or type of fish, area of water, method of fishing, class of boats, purpose of the activities, or a combination of all of the above, engaged in raising or harvesting seafood.
A community which is substantially dependent on or substantially engaged in the harvest or processing of fishery resources to meet social and economic needs, and includes fishing vessel owners, operators, and crew and fish processors that are based in such a community.
A measurement of the rate of removal of fish from a population by fishing. Fishing mortality can be reported as either annual or instantaneous. Annual mortality is the percentage of fish dying in one year. Instantaneous is that percentage of fish dying at any one time. The acceptable rates of fishing mortality may vary from species.
A commercial product made from both whole fish and the bones and offal from processed fish. It is a brown powder or cake obtained by rendering pressing the cooked whole fish or fish trimmings to remove most of the fish oil and water, and then ground. What remains is the "fishmeal". Fishmeal is a nutrient-rich and high protein supplement feed ingredient used primarily in diets for domestic animals and sometimes used as a high-quality organic fertilizer.
The flatfish are an order (Pleuronectiformes) of ray-finned fish. In many species, both eyes lie on one side of the head, one or the other migrating through and around the head during development. Some species face their left side upward, some face their right side upward, and others face either side upward.
The place and its associated environmental conditions where an organism naturally lives, grows, and reproduces; such conditions include characteristics of the substrate, water, and biological community.
A numerical harvest level that is a general objective, but not a quota. Attainment of a harvest guideline does not require a management response, but it does prompt review of the fishery.
Highly Migratory Species (HMS)
Species that have a wide geographic distribution, both inside and outside of nations' EEZ, that undertake migrations of significant but variable distances across oceans for feeding and reproduction, and that live predominately in the open ocean (e.g., Tuna, Sharks, Billfish, Swordfish).
Hook & Line Gear
A fishing method that catches fish by means of a series of baited hooks, which are suspended on lines into the ocean. For example, horizontal longlines, vertical setlines, trolling, and jigging.
The "take" of protected species (such as listed salmon, marine mammals, sea turtles, or sea birds) during fishing. "Take" is defined as to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.
Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs)
A type of quota (a part of a total allowable catch) allocated to individual fishermen, vessel owners, or processors and which can be transferred (sold or leased) to others.
All of the waterways on land. The inland waterways of the United States include over 25,000 miles (40,000 km) of navigable waters. Almost all of the navigable rivers and canals in the United States are in the eastern half of the country.
Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA)
A synthesis and quantitative analysis of information on relevant physical, chemical, ecological, and human processes in relation to specified ecosystem management objectives.
The amount of fish (usually in pounds though sometimes as number of fish) caught be fishermen and delivered at the docks, then sold for profit or kept for personal consumption. Landings are reported at the points at which fish are brought to shore. Note that harvest, catch, and landings have different definitions.
Limited Access Privilege Program (LAPP)
A catch share program whereby quotas (a portion of the total allowable catch of the fishery) may be received or held for exclusive use by a person, business, or other entity.
Fishing gear made up of a long main line attached to which are a large number of short branch lines. At the end of each branch line is a baited hook. When catching groundfish, longlines are laid on the seafloor. When catching fish in the water column, the longlines are buoyed near the surface. Longlines can be 20+ miles long. They are also called setlines.
Long-Term Potential Yield (LTPY)
The maximum long-term average yield that can be achieved through conscientious stewardship, by controlling the proportion of the population removed by harvesting and regulating fishing effort of total catch levels.
The art of taking actions that affect a resource and its exploitation with a view to achieve certain objectives, such as maximizing the production of that resource (e.g., fishery regulations such as catch quotas or closed seasons). Managers are those who practice management.
The legal entity that has been assigned by a state or states with a mandate to perform certain specified management functions in relation to a fishery, or an area (e.g., coastal zone).
A specialized branch of aquaculture involving the cultivation of marine organisms for food and other products in the open ocean or an enclosed section of the ocean (e.g., Prawns, Oysters, Seaweed, Abalone).
Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)
Prohibits the harvest or harassment of marine mammals, although permits for incidental take of marine mammals while commercial fishing may be issued subject to regulation.
Marine Protected Area (MPA)
Any area of the marine environment that has been reserved by federal, state, territorial, tribal, or local laws or regulations to provide lasting protection for part or all of the natural and cultural resources therein.
Mixed Stock Exception
In "mixed-stock complexes," many species of fish swim together and are caught together. This becomes a problem when some of these stocks are healthy and some are overfished because even a sustainable harvest of the healthy stock can harm the depleted stock. In order to avoid having to shut down all fisheries to protect one particular overfished stock, the national standard guidelines allow a "mixed-stock" exception to the "overfished" definition. This would allow higher catches of some overfished species than ordinarily allowed in order to avoid severe hardship to fishing communities.
A method of salmon fishing from a drifting or propelled boat. The bait is sunk deep with a heavy sinker then brought upward at an angle as the boat is maneuvered forward a few yards or the line retrieved. The bait is then allowed to sink once again to the bottom and the procedure repeated.
Rubber disks strung on wire rope that is attached to the footrope of a trawl net. The purpose of the mud gear is to stir up the bottom and herd the fish into the net. Also called a tickle chain.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
Requires Federal agencies to consider the environment when making decisions regarding their programs. Section 102(2)(C) requires Federal agencies to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement before taking major Federal actions that may significantly affect the quality of the human environment.
National Standard Guidelines
Guidelines issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service to provide comprehensive guidance for the development of fishery management plans and amendments that comply with the national standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. These guidelines are found in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, part 600.
Nautical miles are used on ocean and coastal waters. Statute miles are used for inland areas such as the Intracoastal Waterway and the Great Lakes. A nautical mile is 1/60th of a degree or minute of latitude. Roughly seven nautical miles equals eight statute miles.
An individual hired to observe and record activities and catches (including bycatch) aboard fishing vessels or shoreside processing plants for purposes of managing the target and non-target species.
A fishery in which no restrictions on entry or gear occur. License may be required in an open access fishery, but if no quotas in fishermen exist the fishery is still considered open access.
Optimum Yield (OY)
The harvest level for a species that achieves the greatest overall benefits, including economic, social, and biological considerations. Optimum yield is different than Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) in that MSY considers only the biology of the species. The term includes both commercial and recreational yields.
A cone-shaped net that is dragged along the sea bottom. Its mouth is kept open by floats on the headline, weights on the leadline, and two otter boards that shear outward as the net is towed.
A level of fishing pressure that threatens to reduce a stock or complex below the abundance necessary to support maximum sustainable yield and allow an economically sustainable fishing industry.
A fish population (stock) which size is sufficiently small to require a change in management practices to achieve an appropriate level and rate of rebuilding. Note that overfishing and overfished have different definitions.
Harvesting a fish population (stock) at a rate greater than which will meet the management goal within a particular year or season. Note that overfishing and overfished have different definitions.
A nonspecific term for any artificial lure having a distinct "body" made of wood or plastic and having one or more sets of single, double, or triple hooks attached. Most plugs are designed to wobble or create a commotion in the water when retrieved.
The entities that conduct the processing associated with fish and fish products between the time fish are caught or harvested, and the time the final product is delivered to the customer. Fish processors can be divided into two categories: primary and secondary.
The preparation or packaging of fish to render it suitable for human consumption, retail sale, industrial use, or long-term storage, including but not limited to cooking, canning, smoking, salting, drying, filleting, freezing, or rendering into meal or oil, but not heading and gutting unless additional preparation is done.
A shore of the total allowable catch allocated to an operating unit such as a vessel, a company, or an individual fisherman (individual quota) depending on the system of allocation. Quotas may or may not be transferable, inheritable, and tradable. While generally used to allocate total allowable catch, quotas can also be used to allocate fishing effort or biomass.
Programs that limit the quantity of persons, vessels or fishing gear that may be engaged in the take of any given species of fish or shellfish. Restricted access may also limit the catch allocated to each fishery participant through harvest rights such as individual or community quotas.
Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA)
Ocean waters 20-250 fathoms between Cape Mendocino, CA to Point Reyes, CA and 20-150 fathoms between Point Reyes, CA to the U.S./Mexico border. The purpose is to regulate all gear types that have a potentially significant affect on rebuilding of overfished rockfish species south of Cape Mendocino, CA.
Gear that is attached to the "foot rope" of a trawl net. They vary in their design depending on the roughness of the seabed that is being fished: from small rubber discs for very smooth, sandy ground, to large metal balls, up to 0.5 m in diameter for very rough ground. They can also be designed to lift the net off the seabed when they hit an obstacle.
Gear that is attached to the footrope in a trawl net that is made up steel or rubber that roll over the seafloor. The rollers allow the net to maneuver over structural seafloor obstacles and help to ensure that the footrope maintains constant contact with the seafloor.
A member of the Salmonidae family of fishes. Salmonids are the dominant fishes in the coldwater streams and lakes of North America, Europe, and Asia, where they support large recreational and commercial fisheries.
Allocates 30% of the duties for imported fishery products to technological, biological, marketing, and other research and services in order to promote the free flow of domestically-produced fishery products and to develop markets for domestic fishery products.
Scales cover the skin of most bony and cartilaginous fishes. Scales vary enormously in size, shape, structure, and extent, ranging from rigid armor plates in fishes such as shrimpfishes and boxfishes, to microscopic or absent in fishes such as eels and anglerfishes. The morphology of a scale can be used to identify the species of fish they came from.
A fish processor that takes the product from the primary processor and further processes the product by canning or further cutting the seafood products preparing it for retail markets.
Fishing gear made up of a long main line attached to which are a large number of short branch lines. At the end of each branch line is a baited hook. When catching groundfish, setlines are laid on the seafloor. When catching fish in the water column, the setlines are buoyed near the surface. Setlines can be 20+ miles long. They are also called longlines.
A limit on the size of fish that may be kept. Allows a fisherman to keep fish under a minimum size and over a maximum size, but not those in between the minimum and maximum; or size limits that allow a harvester to keep only fish that fall between a minimum and maximum size.
A term for a specific life stage in salmonids. In anadromous populations parr (small active fish with series of bars on their sides) transform into silvery smolts and migrate to the sea. Once in the ocean (or large lakes), the smolts gradually become mature and return to their home streams for spawning.
Social Impact Assessment (SIA)
An evaluation of the likely outcomes and impacts of a specific policy or regulation on a designated target group or groups, as well as likely ripple effects to other groups.
Pertaining to the combination or interaction of social and economic factors and involved topics such as distribution issues, labor market structure, social and opportunity costs, community dynamics, and decision-making process.
An ethic that embodies responsible planning and management of resources. The concept of stewardship has been applied in diverse realms, including with respect to environment, economics, health, property, information, and religion and is linked to the concept of sustainability.
A solid surface on which an organism lives or to which it is attached (also called substratum); or, a chemical that forms the basis of a biochemical reaction or acts as a nutrient for microorganisms.
Supply & Demand
The phenomena in which as demand for an item increases, supplies of the item diminish and the price for the item increases. Conversely, if the supplies of the item increases or the demand decrease then the price for the item decreases. The relationship between the supply and demand for an item determined the price of the item in a market economy.
A state that can be maintained at a certain level indefinitely. The potential longevity of ecological systems, such as planet's climatic system, systems of agriculture, industry, forestry, fisheries, and the ecological infrastructure on which they depend.
A zone extending seaward from the shore or internal waters of a nation for a distance of 12 miles (19.3 km) as defined by the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The coastal state has full authority over this zone but must allow rights of innocent passage.
A classification under the Endangered Species Act. A species is considered threatened if it is likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future through a significant portion of its range.
To trail artificial or natural baits behind a moving boat. The bait can be made to skip along the surface or trailed below at any depth to just above the bottom. A bait or lure trailed behind an angler walking along a pier, bridge, or breakwater is also called trolling.
Vessel Monitoring System (VMS)
A satellite communications system used to monitor fishing activities - for example, to ensure that vessels stay out of prohibited areas. The system is based on electronic devices (transceivers), which are installed on board vessels. These devices automatically send data to shore-based "satellite" monitoring systems.
Also known as coastal pelagic species. Wetfish are primarily caught by commercial fishermen using roundhaul gear (purse seine, drum seine, lampara) for human consumption, bait, animal feed, and fish oil. Wetfish species include Market Squid, Northern Anchovies, Pacific Sardines, etc. They can be found anywhere from the surface to 1,000 meters deep.
A business that sells, transports, and delivers goods to a retailer or other entity that then sells to the end customer. Price conscious consumers often try to avoid further mark-ups in price by purchasing directly from a wholesaler. Also called a distributor.
In fisheries, yield is the percent of the original product available for sale after processing. The yield generally refers to the edible or marketable part of the seafood catch after cleaning, removing unwanted parts, etc.