Yellowtail Flounder

Yellowtail Flounder

Limanda ferruginea

ALSO KNOWN AS:

    Flounder, Rusty Dab

SOURCE:

  • U.S. wild-caught from Maine to New Jersey
 

STATUS

  • POPULATION
  • FISHING RATE
  • HABITAT IMPACTS
  • BYCATCH
 

Click the icons to learn more about each criteria

 
 

OVERVIEW

Yellowtail flounder over the ocean floor

Yellowtail flounder over the ocean floor.

LAUNCH GALLERY

Yellowtail flounder was not considered a valuable flatfish until the mid-1930s, when winter flounder stocks declined. As demand for protein increased during World War II, more fishermen, both foreign and domestic, started fishing with otter trawls. The yellowtail flounder fishery soon expanded, especially in the Georges Bank and Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic areas – in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, annual harvests averaged 14,000 metric tons in Georges Bank, and 20,000 metric tons in the Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic area. By the 1970s, Congress passed a law that phased out foreign fishing in U.S. waters, and harvest generally declined. However, years of heavy fishing had depleted the yellowtail stocks and they reached record lows in the 1980s. By the early 1990s, the Georges Bank and Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stocks had collapsed. The Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine stock collapsed soon after.

In the United States, when scientists determine a fish stock is overfished, fishery managers are required by law to develop a strategy, a "rebuilding plan", to manage harvests at a level that will allow the overfished stock to rebuild to target population levels by a specified deadline. Managers implemented rebuilding plans for the Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine and Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stocks in 2004 and one for the Georges Bank stock in 2006. The target date to rebuild the Georges Bank stock it is 2032 and for the Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine stock it is 2023. Under these plans, fishermen follow a number of strict measures to reduce harvests of yellowtail flounder and allow the stocks to recover. The Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stock was declared rebuilt in 2012.

Looking Ahead

Yellowtail flounder can be incidentally caught in fisheries for other species, such as sea scallops. To reduce impacts of bycatch on rebuilding yellowtail stocks, managers have placed a limit on the amount of yellowtail that can be incidentally caught in the scallop fishery. If this limit is exceeded, managers will close certain areas where yellowtail are known to live for a portion of the next fishing season (the length of the closure depends on the degree of overharvest). Scallopers are required to report how much yellowtail they catch every day so managers can monitor bycatch.

 
 
 

LOCATION & HABITAT

Yellowtail flounder are found along the Atlantic coast of North America from Newfoundland to the Chesapeake Bay. They live on sandy bottoms in waters between 130 and 230 feet deep. Yellowtail flounder are relatively sedentary.

 
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BIOLOGY

Yellowtail flounder grow faster than most flatfish, up to 22 inches and 2.2 pounds. They can live up to 17 years, although most don’t live past age 7. Yellowtail flounder also mature earlier than most flatfish. Almost all females are able to reproduce by the time they reach age 3. They spawn during the spring and summer. Females deposit their eggs on the ocean floor. After the eggs are fertilized, they float to the surface and the larvae drift in surface waters for about 2 months. When yellowtail flounder are first hatched, their eyes are symmetrical, with an eye on each side of their head. As the fish grows, it flattens out and the left eye slowly moves over to the right side of its head. After this metamorphosis, the juvenile yellowtail flounder settles to the bottom.

Juvenile yellowtail flounder mostly eat polychaete worms; adults feed on crustaceans and polychaete worms. Spiny dogfish, skate, and a number of fish such as cod, hakes, flounder, and monkfish prey on yellowtail flounder.

 
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PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

Yellowtail is a thin-bodied, right-eyed flounder. They are wide – nearly half as broad as they are long – with an oval body. They have a small mouth and an arched lateral line. Their eyed side, including the fins, is brownish or olive, tinged with red and marked with large, irregular rusty red spots. True to their name, their tail fin and the edges of the two long fins are yellow. The blind side is white, except for the caudal peduncle (the area between the body and the tail), which is yellowish.

 
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OVERVIEW

Scientists at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center conduct bottom trawl surveys every year during the fall and spring in inshore and offshore areas off the northeast coast to assess and monitor the abundance of yellowtail flounder and other species. Managers use this data along with information from Canadian, state agency, and university-run surveys to determine the status of the yellowtail flounder stocks.

 
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POPULATION STATUS

Yellowtail flounder is divided into three stocks for management purposes: Georges Bank, Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine, and Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic. All three stocks were last assessed in 2012, and the Georges Bank stock is scheduled to be assessed again in September 2013. The Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine stock and the Georges Bank stock are both currently overfished, while the Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stock is not. The Georges Bank stock is at 20 percent of the target population level. The Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine stock is at 24 percent of the target level. The Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stock was declared rebuilt in 2012 and is at 29 percent above the target level.

 
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ADDITIONAL RESEARCH

Since 2003, NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center and commercial fishermen have worked together to tag and release yellowtail flounder throughout New England disclaimer. They record the location, date, and other information when they tag and release a fish, and this information is recorded when the fish is recaptured by fishermen or other reporters. This information helps scientists learn more about how the fish move, their lifespan, and growth rates, leading to more accurate stock assessments and improved fishery management.

 
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Harvesting Yellowtail Flounder

U.S. fishermen harvest yellowtail flounder with otter trawls and sink gillnets as part of the large mesh groundfish fishery along the northeast coast. Yellowtail flounder are usually found on sandy bottoms, which are more resilient to trawling than other, more sensitive habitats such as corals. Certain areas are also closed to fishing to protect sensitive habitats and species.

Fishermen are required to use nets with mesh large enough to allow undersized yellowtail flounder and other groundfish to escape. Gillnets and trawls can incidentally catch marine mammals, but fishermen follow a number of mandatory and voluntary measures under the Harbor Porpoise and Large Whale Take Reduction Plans to reduce bycatch of these species. Mandatory measures include gear modifications, seasonal closures, and a requirement to have acoustic alarms on nets to prevent harbor porpoises from getting entangled in gillnets. Voluntary measures include reducing the amount of turns made by the fishing vessel and tow times while fishing at night, and increasing communication between vessels other about the presence of marine mammals in an area. At-sea fishery observers monitor bycatch in the groundfish fishery.

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Management

Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council

Current management: Under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, along with several other groundfish species. Yellowtail flounder is divided into three stocks for management purposes: Georges Bank, Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine, and Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic.

In 2010, managers enacted new measures to end overfishing and continue to rebuild overfished groundfish stocks (and maintain healthy ones). These measures reduce harvests to a level that will allow the stocks to rebuild to target levels by specified deadlines (2032 for the Georges Bank stock, and 2023 for the Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine stock) and include:

  • Annual catch limits on the amount of all groundfish that can be caught, plus measures to respond if the catch limits are exceeded.
  • Optional catch share program – fishing vessels may now fish together in groups (sectors). Sectors are established annually and are allotted a portion of the total available groundfish catch, based on the combined fishing history of the vessels that are members of a sector. They are exempt from many gear and area restrictions but must stop fishing once the sector catches their allotment of fish. This allows fishermen more control over where and how they fish and the ability to target healthier stocks rather than overfished stocks.
  • Fishermen who choose not to join a sector must fish under the existing system of regulations, with limits on the number of days they can fish, amount they can catch, and when and where they can fish.
  • Most boats are required to carry vessel monitoring systems when they go fishing to ensure compliance with area restrictions, such as closed areas.

The Georges Bank stock is a transboundary resource. Fisheries and Oceans Canada disclaimer manages the Canadian fishery on Georges Bank. The two countries implemented a formal quota-sharing agreement in 2004 to share the harvest of yellowtail flounder in this area. The agreement includes total allowable catch quotas for each country as well as in-season monitoring of the U.S. catch of yellowtail flounder on Georges Bank.

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Annual Harvest

In 2011, commercial fishermen in the United States harvested more than 4 million pounds of yellowtail flounder.

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Economy

The 2011 harvest of yellowtail flounder was valued at nearly $4.7 million.

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OVERVIEW

There are hundreds of flatfish species found around the world. The most commercially important family of flatfish is Plueronectidae, which is concentrated in northern waters. Yellowtail is member of this family and is the most important Atlantic Coast flounder.

Raw flounder ranges in color from tan to pinkish to snow white; cooked flounder is pure white. The meat is lean, boneless, and flaky with a mild flavor. Yellowtail flounder’s sweet taste and firm texture is often the standard to which other flounders are compared. (From Seafood Business, 2011 disclaimer)

 
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SEASONAL AVAILABILITY

Year-round

 
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NUTRITION

Flounder is a good, low-fat source of B vitamins and an excellent source of niacin.

Servings 1
Serving Weight 100 g (raw)
Calories 91
Protein 18.84 g
Fat, total 1.19 g
Saturated fatty acids, total 0.283 g
Carbohydrate 0 g
Sugars, total 0 g
Fiber, total dietary 0 g
Cholesterol 48 mg
Selenium 32.7 mcg
Sodium 81 mg

Yellowtail Flounder Table of Nutrition

 
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