Pacific Ocean Perch

Pacific Ocean Perch

Sebastes alutus

ALSO KNOWN AS:

    POP, Rockfish

SOURCE:

    U.S. wild-caught from Alaska to California
 

STATUS

  • POPULATION
  • FISHING RATE
  • HABITAT IMPACTS
  • BYCATCH
 

Click the icons to learn more about each criteria

 
 

OVERVIEW

Pacific Ocean Perch

Pacific ocean perch are commonly known as POP. POP are light red, with some small dark, olive-green areas.

LAUNCH GALLERY

Pacific ocean perch is one of about 70 kinds of rockfish (Sebastes spp.) found from the Bering Sea to Baja California. It is one of the most important commercial species in the northeast Pacific and is the primary rockfish caught in Alaska rockfish fisheries.

Pacific ocean perch was heavily fished by foreign fleets off the West Coast and in Alaska waters. Off the West Coast, catches peaked at 20,000 metric tons in the mid-1960s. Catches were even higher in Alaska, peaking at 47,000 metric tons in the eastern Bering Sea in 1961, 109,000 metric tons in the Aleutian Islands in 1965, and more than 350,000 metric tons in the Gulf of Alaska in 1965. Unfortunately, this species was not productive enough to support such large catches – Pacific ocean perch stocks were depleted by the 1970s and catches fell to their lowest levels. With the passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1976, the United States phased out foreign fishing and began to strictly manage the domestic fisheries for Pacific ocean perch to rebuild the resource. The Alaska stocks have been successfully rebuilt; the fisheries now operate sustainably and are productive once again. The West Coast stock is rebuilding because managers have prohibited directed fishing on the species, and harvest rates are now sustainable.

Because rockfish such as Pacific ocean perch grow slowly and do not reproduce until relatively late in life, some are caught before they can reproduce, and they’re not able to replenish their populations as quickly other species. These factors make them especially susceptible to overfishing, as reflected in the relatively low recommended harvest rate.

Looking Ahead

In 2012, the Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Program was implemented to enhance resource conservation and improve economic efficiency for harvesters and processors who participate in the Central Gulf of Alaska rockfish fisheries. This program establishes cooperatives for trawl vessels and processors that receive exclusive harvest privileges for rockfish management groups. The primary rockfish management groups are northern rockfish, Pacific ocean perch, and dusky rockfish. LEARN MORE

 
 
 

LOCATION & HABITAT

Off the coast of North America, Pacific ocean perch are found from Southern California to the western Aleutian Islands. Encounters south of Oregon are less common, and are particularly rare in southern California. They’re also found on the other side of the North Pacific, from Honshu, Japan, to the Bering Sea. Pacific ocean perch is most common in northern British Columbia, the Gulf of Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands.

Pacific ocean perch is a “slope rockfish” and primarily lives in deeper waters of the upper continental slope and along the edge of the continental shelf. Larvae and young juveniles live near the surface; older juveniles and adults typically live and feed near the bottom. Adults prefer both sandy and rocky bottom habitats, areas with vertical relief, and bottom habitats with structure-forming invertebrates such as corals.

Adults migrate to shallower waters in the summer to feed, and in the fall they migrate farther offshore to spawn and live for the winter. Adults form large schools, some reaching 100 feet wide, 260 feet deep, and 4,000 feet long.

 
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BIOLOGY

Pacific ocean perch grow slowly and live a long time – scientists estimate their maximum age to be 98 years. They are not able to reproduce until they are relatively old, around age 10. Females are fairly fertile and can have between 10,000 and 300,000 eggs, depending on their size. Pacific ocean perch mate in the fall – males deposit sperm in the females, females retain the sperm, and the eggs are fertilized about 2 months later. The eggs develop inside females and receive some nourishment from the mother. They hatch internally, and females release the larvae in the spring. Pacific ocean perch can grow to about 20 inches in length and about 4 pounds.

Pacific ocean perch are carnivorous. Larvae eat small zooplankton (tiny floating organisms). Juveniles and adults feed on copepods and euphausiids (krill). Adults also eat small fishes. Pacific ocean perch often move off-bottom during the day to feed, apparently following the daily migrations of krill. Seabirds, other rockfish, salmon, lingcod, and other large, bottom-dwelling fish feed on juveniles. Sablefish, Pacific halibut, and sperm whales feed on adults.

 
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PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

Pacific ocean perch are light red. They have dark, olive-green areas on their back under the soft dorsal fin and on the caudal peduncle (the narrow part of the body to which the tail is attached).

 
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OVERVIEW

Scientists from NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center survey the abundance of Pacific ocean perch every year in the Bering Sea and every two years the Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska. They compile the data from these surveys into stock assessments, which fishery managers use to develop or amend fishery regulations. Scientists at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center monitor the abundance of Pacific ocean perch along the U.S. West Coast through annual trawl surveys. The coastal states and treaty tribes provide valuable biological data from port-side monitoring programs that assist in stock assessments and inform management decisions.

 
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POPULATION STATUS

There are three managed stocks of Pacific ocean perch: Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, and Pacific Coast.

The Gulf of Alaska stock reached more than 330,000 tons in 2010, 36 percent above its target level. The Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands stock is also extremely abundant, at 63 percent above its target level. These stocks were last assessed in 2013 and remain off the overfished list. Off the West Coast, the Pacific ocean perch stock was last assessed in 2011 and is not experiencing overfishing, but the stock remains overfished. However, the stock is managed under a rebuilding plan and is now at 48 percent of its target population level.   

 
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Harvesting Pacific Ocean Perch

Pacific ocean perch are caught primarily in bottom trawl fisheries in Alaska waters. Fishermen also use pelagic trawls, which now account for about a third of the catch in the Gulf of Alaska. The majority of the annual catch is taken in the summer. Pacific cod, arrowtooth flounder, and sablefish are the main species caught as bycatch in the trawl fishery in Alaska. When caught, fishermen generally keep the Pacific cod and sablefish due to their high commercial value.

In 2008, NOAA Fisheries implemented a catch share program for groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, directly allocating the catch of several groundfish species, including Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch, among sectors of trawl fishermen. This program allows fishermen in a specific trawl catcher/processor sector to harvest their shares together in a “cooperative.” This program has significantly improved retention and utilization of fishery resources, encouraged fishing practices with lower bycatch and discard rates, and helped increase the value of harvested species.

Off the West Coast, Pacific ocean perch are managed under a rebuilding plan that currently does not allow a targeted fishery for the species. However, they are sometimes harvested as bycatch in the bottom trawl and mid-water trawl fisheries, and to a lesser extent, in longline fisheries. No bycatch is associated with catches of Pacific ocean perch off the West Coast, as they are harvested only incidentally in other fisheries. West Coast bottom trawl fisheries are highly regulated under a trawl “catch share” program, which encourages responsible fishing practices and closely monitors the amount of all catch. To protect groundfish habitat and overfished species, regulations also prohibit bottom trawling in certain areas. Vessels use vessel monitoring systems (VMS), which allow enforcement staff and fishery managers to monitor GPS locations of fishing activities and to ensure that vessels are complying with closed areas.

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Management

Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific and Pacific Fishery Management Councils

Current management:
Alaska: Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fishery Management Plans

  • Permits and limited entry to the fishery.
  • Catch quotas and allocations.
  • Fishing seasons.
  • Closed waters and regulatory areas.
  • Gear restrictions and limits on bycatch.
  • Record keeping and reporting requirements and observer monitoring.
  • The Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Program, which allows harvesters to fish together in cooperatives. These cooperatives are allocated specific amounts of the allowed catches of rockfish and species harvested incidentally to rockfish. Processors can form associations with these cooperatives. The goal of the program is to spread out the fishery in time and space, allowing for better prices and reducing the pressure of what was once an approximately two-week fishery in July.
  • 10.7 percent of the Aleutian Islands catch limit is allocated to the “Community Development Quota Program,” which benefits fishery-dependent communities in western Alaska. The rest is allocated among the various fishing sectors under the Amendment 80 catch share program.

West Coast: Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan

  • NOAA Fisheries declared the Pacific coast stock overfished in 1999. The council adopted a rebuilding plan for the stock in 2000, prohibiting a directed fishery for the species as it rebuilds. Pacific ocean perch are still caught incidentally in both trawl and non-trawl fisheries off Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, and managers control this catch through area closures and catch limits.
  • Since January 2011, the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery has been managed under a Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program. Managers establish annual catch limits based on the health of each fish stock and then allocate a share of this catch limit to individual fishermen or groups of fishermen. Fishermen can decide how and when to catch their share – preferably when weather, markets, and business conditions are most favorable, allowing the fishery the flexibility to be more environmentally responsible, safer, more efficient, and more valuable. The goal is to allow fishermen to catch more of the healthy target stocks without increasing their harvest of overfished stocks.
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Annual Harvest

During 2013, the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska annual landings were more than 94 million pounds.

Although West Coast fishermen are not allowed to directly fish for Pacific ocean perch because it is rebuilding, they sometimes harvest the species incidentally in both trawl and non-trawl fisheries off Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. Annual catch in this area was about 65,582 pounds in 2011.  

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Economy

In 2012, the total harvest of Pacific ocean perch, taken mainly in Alaska waters, was valued at more than $18 million.

Off the West Coast, rebuilding the Pacific ocean perch stock through proper management measures is essential to allow fisheries to access healthier stocks. If overfishing was occurring, fisheries that depend on even negligible amounts of Pacific ocean perch bycatch would be jeopardized.

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OVERVIEW

Harvested commercially by the United States, Canada, and Russia, Pacific ocean perch is a delicate, nutty-flavored fish. The meat is lean and fairly firm and has a fine flake.

Pacific ocean perch are sold fresh or frozen, in a variety of product forms – mainly whole, headed and gutted, or fillets. When whole, their skin should be shiny and bright. Fillets should not appear brown, gray, or yellow.

 
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SEASONAL AVAILABILITY

Year-round

 
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NUTRITION

Pacific ocean perch is low in saturated fat and very high in selenium, phosphorus, and vitamin B12.

Servings 1
Serving Weight 100 g (raw)
Calories 94
Protein 18.62 g
Fat, total 1.63 g
Saturated fatty acids, total 0.244 g
Carbohydrate 0 g
Sugars, total 0 g
Fiber, total dietary 0 g
Cholesterol 42 mg
Selenium 43.3 mcg
Sodium 75 mg

Pacific ocean perch table of nutrition

 
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RECIPES

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