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 yellowfin sole, 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.
- Ocean perch
- Sea Bass
- Turbot (Greenland)
ALSO KNOWN AS:
U.S. wild-caught from Alaska
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Yellowfin sole caught during a survey in the Bering Sea.LAUNCH GALLERY
Yellowfin sole is one of the most abundant flatfish species in the eastern Bering Sea and is the target of the largest flatfish fishery in the world. Alaska is responsible for the majority of the worldwide yellowfin sole catch, harvesting over 150,000 metric tons in 2011. Their catch is usually headed and gutted or frozen whole at sea, and then shipped to Asian countries to be further processed. The fillets of this delicate, mild-tasting fish are often re-exported back to the United States.
Heavily harvested by foreign fleets in the late 1950s and early 1960s, yellowfin sole populations recovered by the 1970s and are currently well above target population levels. U.S. fisheries for flatfish such as yellowfin sole developed during the 1980s, and management eventually phased out all foreign fishing in U.S. waters by 1990. Today, scientists actively monitor the abundance of yellowfin sole. Managers use the latest estimates of abundance and observations about the population to calculate sustainable catch limits for the following fishing season. They allocate the annual catch limit among participating permitted fishermen according to their historic harvest patterns and future harvest needs. Catch is monitored throughout the fishing season to ensure it doesn’t exceed harvest limits or limits on bycatch of prohibited species (halibut and crab).
LOCATION & HABITAT
Yellowfin sole are found in the North Pacific Ocean from British Columbia up to the Chukchi Sea (north of the Bering Sea) and south along the Asian coast to the South Korean coast in the Sea of Japan. Adults live on soft sandy bottoms on the eastern Bering Sea shelf. They migrate from winter grounds on the outer continental shelf to shallow waters on the inner shelf in April or early May to spawn and feed.
Yellowfin sole grow slowly, up to over 1½ feet. They have a relatively long life span – researchers have recorded females as old as 39 years. Most females are able to reproduce when they reach 10½ years old; they’re about 1 foot long at this age. Yellowfin sole spawn in the spring and summer in shallow waters on the inner continental shelf. They’re very productive and can bear between 1 million and 3 million eggs.
Yellowfin sole’s diet varies with its age. Larvae eat plankton (tiny floating plants and animals) and algae. Early juveniles feed on zooplankton (tiny floating animals). Late juveniles and adults eat bivalves, polychaete worms, amphipods (small, shrimp-like crustaceans), mollusks, krill, shrimp, brittle start, sculpins, and other miscellaneous crustaceans. Pacific cod and halibut prey on juvenile yellowfin sole.
Yellowfin sole are a flatfish, with both eyes on one side of their body. Their eyed-side is olive to dark brown with dark mottling; their underside is pale. Yellowfin sole are named for their yellowish fins. Their fins also have faint dark bars and a narrow dark line at their base. The body shape is generally round, with rounded edges on the tail fin. They have small mouths and moderately large eyes that are almost side-by-side. The anal spine is thin, sharp, and exposed. Rough scales are found on both sides of the body.
Scientists from NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center assess the abundance of flatfish such as yellowfin sole in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska every 1 to 2 years. The Science Center also runs an observer program for the Alaska groundfish fisheries. This program places fisheries observers on commercial fishing vessels to monitor and record catch and critical biological data (such as fish length, sex, and weight). This information improves our understanding of fishing activities and helps provide accurate accounts of total catch, bycatch, and discards associated with different fisheries and fish stocks.
In the Bering Sea, abundance of yellowfin sole has remained relatively high and stable in recent years, and is currently well above target population levels.
In the Gulf of Alaska, yellowfin sole is assessed and managed along with other several other flatfish species as part of the shallow-water flatfish complex. Yellowfin sole abundance has been stable for the past 15 years and remains lightly harvested.
Harvesting Yellowfin Sole
All of the U.S. commercial harvest of yellowfin sole comes from Alaska, mainly the Bering Sea where fisheries have been operating since the 1950s. Bottom trawlers tow a cone-shaped net along the bottom to harvest yellowfin sole. They usually fish for yellowfin sole from spring through December.
Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council
Current management: Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fishery Management Plan.
- Fishermen must have a permit to participate in these fisheries, and the number of available permits is limited to control the amount of fishing.
- Every year, managers set limits on how much yellowfin sole can be caught.
- Over 10 percent of the 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 based on gear type, vessel size, and ability to process their catch.
- All yellowfin sole caught must be retained for processing.
- Catch is monitored through recordkeeping, reporting requirements, and observer monitoring.
Yellowfin sole is also included in the shallow-water flatfish complex in the Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Fishery Management Plan. A very small amount is caught incidentally in this area, and no management measures directly apply to this species.
The 2011 commercial harvest of yellowfin sole is estimated at over 150,000 metric tons. Fishing seasons and catch may be limited by closures to prevent exceeding the Pacific halibut or crab bycatch limits.
Yellowfin sole processed offshore are sold as whole fish and headed-and-gutted (H&G) fish. Whole yellowfin sole is generally sold to South Korea for domestic consumption. H&G fish is primarily sold to re-processors in China for conversion into individual frozen skinless, boneless fillets. The majority of these fillets are eventually exported from China to the United States and Canada for use in food service. A small percentage of yellowfin sole is sold as kirimi, a steak-like product without the head and tail. Kirimi is often exported to Japan. Smaller fish tend to be used in the production of kirimi because larger fish that yield fillets greater than 3 ounces fetch a higher price. Approximately 80 percent to 90 percent of the sole harvested in the Alaska groundfish fisheries is shipped to Asia.
U.S. shoreside processors produce some fillets as well as other products, with some products going to Asia and others remaining in the United States. However, the relatively small fillets of yellowfin sole have a high labor cost per pound, which makes it more attractive to ship the fish to China, where labor costs for secondary processing are lower.
Yellowfin sole is the smallest of the Pacific soles. It has a mild, sweet flavor with small flakes and a delicate texture. Like all flatfish, its fillets are thin.
Yellowfin sole is an excellent source of low-fat protein, calcium, and other important nutrients.
|Serving Weight||100 g|
|Fat, total||1.19 g|
|Saturated fatty acids, total||0.283 g|
|Sugars, total||0 g|
|Fiber, total dietary||0 g|
Yellowfin sole table of nutrition
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