Regulations implemented to rebuild the stock prevented a significant redfish fishery in the New England for nearly two decades—and although the redfish population is back, the fishery and market have all but disappeared. Fishermen can now sustainably harvest more than 18 million pounds of redfish a year, but are only catching a fraction of this because of inefficient harvesting methods and limited markets for their catch. Funded through federal grants, several groups have initiated projects over the past few years to address these issues. A collaborative network of researchers, regulators, and industry members, called REDNET , are trying to figure out how to best catch, protect, and market the species. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute also recently started working with fishermen, chefs, and seafood purveyors to raise consumer awareness of this tasty, abundant source of protein.
- Gray triggerfish
- Greater amberjack
- Ocean perch
- Sea Bass
- Turbot (Greenland)
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Ocean perch, Labrador redfish
U.S. wild-caught from Maine to New York
- FISHING RATE
- HABITAT IMPACTS
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Baskets of redfish for sampling during a trawl survey.LAUNCH GALLERY
Acadian redfish (Sebastes fasciatus) is one of three redfish species common in the Northwest Atlantic. (The other two are deepwater redfish (S. mentella) and golden redfish (S. norvegicus, formerly marinus).) These Atlantic redfish species should not be confused with the redfish of "blackened redfish" fame, which is really red drum from the Gulf of Mexico. Atlantic redfish are also commonly called ocean perch, although they're actually a species of rockfish.
The market for Acadian redfish first took off in the 1930s when the developing food-freezing industry needed new resources. At that time, fishermen sought only species in demand such as cod, haddock, and flounder, shunning the abundant redfish. Processors found that redfish were adaptable to the new food technology, and harvests rose as freezing techniques enabled a widespread distribution of the frozen product throughout the country. Redfish became a highly sought-after and important commercial species, serving as a key protein source for the U.S. military in the 1940s and 1950s.
By the mid-1950s, redfish stocks throughout the Northwest Atlantic were heavily exploited, with peak landings of 130,000 metric tons in 1952 (up from just 100 metric tons in the early 1930s). Unfortunately, Acadian redfish grows slowly, lives a long time, and has low reproductive rates, making it vulnerable to overfishing. Due to these characteristics, Acadian redfish couldn't tolerate this heavy fishing pressure and the population crashed. Harvests and demand for the species subsequently plummeted.
In response, managers implemented a number of strict fishery management measures, including time and area closures, fishing gear restrictions, and minimum fish size limits to rebuild the redfish population. Thanks to these measures, as well as a rebuilding plan implemented in 2004 and the significant sacrifices of fishermen, the Acadian redfish population rebounded and was declared fully rebuilt in June 2012. The Acadian redfish stock now exceeds target population levels, compared to an all-time low in the mid-1980s. Managers now take the redfish's sensitive biological characteristics into account when setting annual harvest levels, and the fish is now harvested at a sustainable rate.
LOCATION & HABITAT
Acadian redfish are found over rocky, mud, or clay bottoms in the Atlantic Ocean from the coast of Norway to Georges Bank. Off New England they're most common in the deep waters of the Gulf of Maine to depths of 975 feet. They tend to move off bottom at night to feed and closer to shore in the winter.
Acadian redfish are slow-growing, long-lived fish. They mature at a late age (5 to 6 years) and have low reproductive rates. Redfish mate in late autumn and early winter. Redfish give birth to live young, an unusual feature for fish, and fertilization, incubation, and hatching of eggs all occur within the female's body. Eggs are not fertilized until spring and then incubate for 45 to 60 days. Females release their hatched larvae in late spring through July and August. Females generally produce between 15,000 and 20,000 larvae per spawning cycle.
The newly hatched redfish can swim well at birth and are soon able to forage for plankton (tiny floating plants and animals). Their survival rate is relatively high compared with that of egg-laying fish. Young redfish stay in the upper waters feeding on small crustaceans until they are about 2 inches long and they settle to the bottom in the fall. Older redfish feed on larger invertebrates and small fish. Redfish can grow up to 18 to 20 inches long and live 50 years or more.
Redfish are an orange to flame red above and paler below. They have a flattened body that is longer than it is deep. Redfish have large eyes and a large mouth lined with many small teeth. They have one continuous dorsal fin that runs from the nape of their neck to their caudal peduncle (where the body meets the tail) and a small tail fin. Young redfish are marked with patches of black and green pigment; they don't develop their red pigment until after they move to the ocean bottom.
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 monitor the abundance of redfish and other species. They use these data, along with data from surveys conducted by the state fisheries management agencies and fishery statistics, to determine the status of the redfish stocks.
Based on the most recent assessment, estimates of redfish abundance have been increasing in recent years. The Acadian redfish stock is currently 32% above its target population level.
Funded by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center's Cooperative Research Program, researchers, regulators, and industry members are conducting a project called "REDNET: A Network to Redevelop a Sustainable Redfish (Sebastes fasciatus) Trawl Fishery in the Gulf of Maine." The primary objective of this project is to devise strategies and means to efficiently harvest the redfish resource in the Gulf of Maine while avoiding non-target catch.
Harvesting Acadian redfish
Commercial fishermen typically harvest redfish year-round with otter trawls. They also sometimes use hook and line gear.
Otter trawls used to harvest redfish can impact habitat, depending on where they are used. Vessels are prohibited from trawling in closed areas considered to be essential fish habitat or vital for protecting spawning fish. Acadian redfish can be found in areas where deep-sea corals are also present. Some research indicates that these deep-water corals serve as protective habitat for juvenile redfish. There is some concern that redfish harvests, which occur in deeper water, could result in negative impacts to deep sea corals; however, very little is known about the extent of this or the associated impacts. Research projects are underway to identify areas withthese deep water corals and the impacts of fishing in these areas.
Otter trawls can incidentally catch other fish and marine mammals. Fishermen follow a number of strict regulations and use modified fishing gear to reduce bycatch of other species. For example, the mesh on trawl nets must be above a minimum size to reduce bycatch of juvenile redfish and non-target species. Vessels are accountable for any groundfish bycatch, including juvenile groundfish. All groundfish caught are debited against a sector's allotted harvest. Vessels are prohibited from selling undersized fish, and smaller redfish are generally considered less marketable. Dogfish and pollock, both considered healthy stocks, are the primary bycatch for vessels targeting redfish.
Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council
Current management: Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, along with several other groundfish species
Management measures include:
- Permitting requirements
- Time/area closures to control the amount of fishing that may occur and fish that may be harvested, and to protect spawning fish and habitat.
- Gear restrictions.
- Minimum size limits to ensure that fish are able to spawn at least once before being caught.
- Limits on the number of days vessels can spend fishing and the amount they can catch per fishing trip. This measure is in place to control the amount of fish that may be caught and achieve long-term sustainable catch and population levels.
Managers implemented new measures for the Northeast groundfish fishery in 2010 to end overfishing, continue to rebuild overfished stocks, and maintain healthy stocks. These measures include:
- A limit on the amount of all groundfish that can be caught, as well as measures to respond if the catch limits are exceeded.
- Optional catch share program – fishing vessels may fish together in groups (sectors), which are established annually and are allocated a portion of the total available groundfish catch, based on the combined fishing history of sector member vessels. Sectors are exempt from many gear and area restrictions but must stop fishing for groundfish once the sector catches their allocation of fish. This gives fishermen more control over where and how they fish and allows them to target healthier stocks rather than overfished ones. 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.
In 2010, U.S. commercial fishermen harvested 1,645 metric tons (3.6 million pounds) of redfish.
The 2010 commercial harvest of redfish was valued at $1.96 million. Currently, there is limited market demand for redfish and much of what is landed from the Gulf of Maine is used as lobster bait. The ex-vessel price for redfish is typically around $0.50/pound, so many fishermen do not target the species.
Recreational catches of redfish are insignificant. There is a minimum size limit but no daily possession limit.
Redfish is a firm, white-fleshed fish that requires careful handling, because it tends to spoil more quickly than other fish. Redfish can be substituted for haddock and similar fish. (Maine Seafood Guide, 2012)
Redfish is low in saturated fat. It's a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and calcium and is a very good source of protein, phosphorus, and selenium.
|Serving Weight||100 g (raw)|
|Fat, total||1.5 g|
|Saturated fatty acids, total||0 g|
|Sugars, total||0 g|
|Fiber, total dietary||0 g|
Acadian Redfish Table of Nutrition