The National Fisheries Institute (INAPESCA) belongs to the Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) and coordinates and conducts scientific and technological research on fisheries and aquaculture resources. No regular stock assessment of Pacific sierra is conducted in Mexico. The little information available on the stock status of Pacific sierra in Mexico comes from some regional studies conducted at the state-level. (Espino-Barr et al. 2012) analyzed the yield per recruit and estimated fishing and natural mortality with samples collected in 2003 in the state of Colima. (Zamora-García 2013) developed an age-structured Thompson-Bell yield per recruit analysis with samples collected in 2012 and 2013 in Baja California Sur.
In addition, due to the relevance of Pacific sierra for Mexican fisheries, some studies have been conducted on the life history and fisheries biology of the species, including investigations on size-at-age, mortality, fecundity, age and growth, feeding and demography (Ramírez-Pérez 2010)(Zárate-Becerra and Nava-Ortega 2016).
Since 2000 INAPESCA edits the National Fisheries Chart (CNP) which is updated regularly and is developed under the Fisheries Law. The CNP constitutes a state of the art review of Mexican fisheries (by species or group of species) and defines guidelines, strategies and measures for conservation, protection and management of the fishing resources. In the last update of the CNP (DOF 2012) no explicit information regarding Pacific sierra was provided. The previous update (DOF 2010) suggested that the fishery should be regulated if catches drop below certain limits depending on the states (See Reference points section). It was also suggested a minimum landing size of 50 mm for some regions. Last it was proposed that the species should be managed through a specific management plan (Aguirre-Villaseñor et al. 2006).
Further advice has been provided in the last years through scientific publications authored by INAPESCA staff. Espino-Barr et al. (Espino-Barr et al. 2017) suggested two fishing closures in May and September each year to protect the reproduction and recruitment of the individuals. Some authors (Espino-Barr et al. 2012)(Lucano-Ramírez et al. 2011) suggested to increase the age at first capture to 5 -6 years (44-46 cm). Last, Zárate-Becerra and Nava-Ortega (Zárate-Becerra and Nava-Ortega 2016) suggested the reduction or no increase of fishing pressure based on mortality indexes off Nayarit and increase the monitoring efforts.
The 2010 update of the CNP (DOF 2010) suggested that the specific management measures should be taken if catches dropped below the following reference points: 1,000 tons in the state of Sonora, 550 in Sinaloa, 100 tons in Baja California, 200 tons in Baja California Sur, 250 tons in Nayarit, 90 tons in Jalisco, 70 tons in Colima, 70 tons in Michoacan, 50 tons in Guerrero and 70 tons in Oaxaca and Chiapas. These reference points however were not included in the last update of the CNP (DOF 2012).
No stock assessment of Pacific sierra has been recently conducted in Mexico so stock status is currently unknown. Catches have been increasing since the 1960's with record high values in 2014 and 2015 (the last two years with data) (FAO 2015).
The most recent stock status comes from two studies reporting the resource as overfished (or similar term) based on the data provided in the following table:
Espino-Barr et al., 2012
Zárate-Becerra et al., 2016
Year of data
2009, 2010, 2011
Origin of data
Total mortality (y-1)
Natural mortality (y-1)
Fishing mortality (y-1)
Yield per recruit (g)
High fishing pressure
However, the CNP update of 2010 (DOF 2010) stated that the fishery of Pacific sierra in central and southern Mexican regions has some potential for further development and the IUCN assessment (IUCN 2008) reported the population trend as “stable”. A review of the state of Mexican fisheries (Arreguín-Sánchez and Arcos-Huitrón 2011) stated that the fishery of Scomberomorus spp (a group of species including the Pacific sierra) was fully developed in the Gulf of California and overexploited in the central Mexican Pacific.
Catches of Pacific sierra in Mexico have been steadily increasing from ~1000 tons in the 1960’s tons to ~12000 tons in 2015 (FAO 2015).
The National Commission of Aquaculture and Fisheries (CONAPESCA) is the entity responsible for fisheries management in Mexico. At present there is no specific management plan for Pacific sierra in place. The species is not managed through TACs or fish quotas and no biological reference points have been set. The only management measure is an effort control through a regulation of the number of vessels, which is deemed insufficient (Ramírez-Pérez 2010). In spite of the many reports evidencing a high percentage of juveniles in the catches, there is no minimum landing size in place (Lucano-Ramírez et al. 2011)(Ramírez-Pérez 2010)(Zárate-Becerra and Nava-Ortega 2016).
At present there are no recovery plans for Pacific sierra in Mexico
There are not set TACs or fish quotas for Pacific sierra in Mexico. Illegal fishing has been recognized as a major problem for Mexican fisheries, and it may represent 40-90% of the official catches (IMCO 2013)(SAGARPA-INAPESCA 2014). Illegal fishing within marine reserves has been reported. Especially concerning is the existence of illegal fishing activities within the Alto Golfo de California Natural Protected Area, which was created to protect the last individuals of Mexican porpoise, an endangered marine mammal endemic to the region.
The General Direction of Inspection and Surveillance is the Department of CONAPESCA in charge of supervising that fishing activities are conducted following the regulations in force; it is integrated by 210 federal officials.
Scientific observers monitor the artisanal fisheries in the Golfo de Ulloa (Baja California Sur) since 2014 to register fishery operations and interactions with sea turtles (DOF 2016).
There is a total of 90 marine species protected by law in Mexico (DOF 2010), including 18 invertebrates, 44 mammals, 17 fish (including five species of elasmobranchs), 7 reptiles and four plant species.
The interaction between gillnets and the Mexican porpoise (Phocoena sinus; critically endangered since 1996) is very high (IUCN 2017). In an effort to protect this ETP species, the Federal Government has banned the use of gillnets in Alto Golfo de California in 2017, where this species is endemic to. This decision met a popular demand of many years in favor to protect the last individuals of the Mexican porpoise, whose population is estimated in 30 individuals and whose main cause of mortality is the entanglement in fishing gears (IUCN 2017).
Incidental catches of juveniles sharks and rays by the Pacific sierra gillnet fishery have been reported, but the magnitude of such interactions has not been quantified (CONAPESCA-INP 2004).
According to the National Fisheries Chart (DOF 2010) the endemic Gulf corvina (Cynoscion othonopterus; classified as vulnerable by IUCN) (IUCN 2007) is captured as bycatch in this fishery.
Information on the interaction between gillnets and other ETP species is not documented.
OTHER TARGET AND BYCATCH SPECIES
The Pacific sierra is mainly targeted with set and drift gillnets in Mexico, whose characteristics vary depending on the fishing location or region (DOF 2010). This fishery also targets Monterey Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus concolor), classified as vulnerable and with a decreasing population trend by IUCN (IUCN 2011). According to the National Fisheries Chart (DOF 2010), up to 25 benthopelagic and demersal species are captured as bycatch in this fishery. Among them, the shortfin weak fish (Cynoscion parvipinnis) (IUCN 2007) and the Pacific bonito (Sarda chiliensis) (IUCN 2007) populations have been classified as decreasing.
The Pacific sierra in Mexico is mainly captured with set and drift surface and mid-water gillnets (DOF 2010), but minor catches are obtained with hand lines and trolls. Vessels targeting Pacific sierra in Mexico operate in shallow waters between 10 and 60 meters depth (Zamora-García 2013). Mid-water and surface gillnets rarely contact the bottom, and thus are supossed to have minimal effects on bottom habitats but no specific studies have been conducted in Mexico.
A total of 105 marine Priority Areas for the Conservation of the Biodiversity were identified in Mexico based on biotic and abiotic variables (CONABIO-CONANP-TNC-PRONATURA. 2007). Part of these areas (~20% of the surface) are protected by law through a federal net of 182 Natural Protected Areas (ANPs), 68 of them protecting marine areas, and 39 of them in the Pacific coast, where this fishery operates. Some of those ANPs are also recognized as conservation areas by International organizations (RAMSAR, RAMPAN, etc…). Maps and information on Mexican ANPs are available in an interactive map. Fishing is banned in some of them (detailed information and management plan of each individual ANP can be found here). Besides the federal ANPs, a total of 9 state ANPs exist in the Pacific Mexican coast in the states of Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, Sinaloa and Sonora (CONABIO-CONANP-TNC-PRONATURA. 2007).
In July 2017 the Mexican Government banned gillnetting in Alto Golfo de California in a permanent basis in order to protect the Mexican porpoise, one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world (DOF 2017).
A 20,000 km2 fisheries refuge was created in Baja California Sur to reduce the interaction between fishing activities and sea turtles, but other ETP species may also benefit from protection and gear regulations (DOF 2016).
Gillnets are banned in four regions of the Pacific Mexican coast between 1st and 30th each year to protect reproduction of elasmobranchs (Bonfil 2014).
In November 2017, Mexico announced the creation of the largest marine protected area in North America, the archipelago of Revillagigedo, with more than 148,000 km2 protected and where fishing activities are prohibited (DOF 2017).
Unlike many other species, the Pacific sierra is not subject to any temporal closure in Mexico (CONAPESCA, 2017).