navigation

Arrowtooth Flounder

Atheresthes stomias

Arrowtooth flounder

Also Known As

  • Flounder
  • Arrowtooth halibut
  • Turbot
  • Paltus

U.S. wild-caught arrowtooth flounder is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

Population

Above target population levels.

Fishing Rate

At recommended levels.

Habitat Impacts

Area closures and gear restrictions protect habitats affected by some types of fishing gear used to harvest arrowtooth flounder.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Year-round.

  • Source

    U.S. wild-caught from Alaska to California.

  • Taste

    Mild, sweet flavor.

  • Texture

    Delicate.

  • Color

    Arrowtooth flounder meat is white.

  • Health Benefits

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

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the arrowtooth flounder fishery in Alaska.
  • Managed under the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fishery Management Plans:
    • Arrowtooth flounder are included in these fishery management plans because of their importance to the ecosystem (it’s a very abundant flatfish and an important part of the food chain as both predator and prey).
    • Commercial interest in arrowtooth flounder has grown in recent years.
    • Limit on the total amount of arrowtooth flounder that can be harvested each year. Annual harvests have consistently been below this level.
  • NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the arrowtooth flounder fishery on the West Coast.
  • Managed under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan:
    • Limits on the number of permits and fishermen allowed.
    • Limits on the minimum size of fish that may be harvested.
    • Limit on how much may be harvested in one fishing trip.
    • Certain seasons and areas are closed to fishing.
    • Gear restrictions help reduce bycatch and impacts on habitat.
    • A trawl rationalization catch share program includes:
      • Catch limits based on population information for each fish stock and divided into shares that are allocated to individual fishermen or groups.
      • These 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.

Harvest

  • In 2016, commercial landings of arrowtooth flounder totaled more than 62 million pounds and were valued at more than $6 million.
  • Although arrowtooth flounder are a low-value fish, fishermen have been retaining more of the arrowtooth they catch – up to about 80 percent in Alaska.
  • Catches have been higher because arrowtooth flounder are more abundant, resulting in higher incidental catch in other fisheries, in addition to increased marketing efforts for arrowtooth fish meal and surimi.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Bottom trawl gear is used to catch arrowtooth flounder.
    • In general, arrowtooth flounder live on sandy or sand/gravel habitats. These soft bottom habitats are usually more resilient than other habitats to trawling impacts.
    • In Alaska, NOAA Fisheries scientists and the flatfish fishing industry collaborated to develop changes to fishing gear that would reduce effects of flatfish trawling on seafloor habitats of the central Gulf of Alaska and the eastern Bering Sea shelf. The modified gear they developed – Bering Sea flatfish gear – not only reduced impacts to sea floor habitat and the animals living there but also reduced the fishery’s impacts on crabs. In the central Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea areas, flatfish fishermen are now required to use this modified fishing gear.
    • Halibut are sometimes incidentally caught, but there is a limit on the number of halibut that can be incidentally caught in the fishery. When this limit is reached, the directed fishery is closed.
    • Some rockfish are still unintentionally caught, but management caps the amount of rockfish that can be incidentally caught in the fishery.
    • To protect sensitive fish habitat off the West Coast, gear restrictions limit where flatfish fishermen can fish.

The Science

Population Status

  • There are three stocks of arrowtooth flounder: Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, Gulf of Alaska, and West Coast:

Location

  • Arrowtooth flounder are found from Northern California through the Bering Sea.

Habitat

  • Juvenile and adult arrowtooth flounder live on the ocean floor.
  • They’re most commonly found on sand or sandy gravel habitat and occasionally over low-relief rock-sponge bottoms.
  • During the summer, arrowtooth flounder feed in shallow water on the continental shelf.
  • They migrate to deep water over the continental slope to spawn in the winter.

Physical Description

  • Arrowtooth flounder are a relatively large, brownish colored flatfish with a large mouth.
  • They’re members of the family Pleuronectidae, the right-eyed flounders, which have both eyes on the right side and lie on the ocean floor on their left side.

Biology

  • Arrowtooth flounder grow slowly and can live up to 27 years.
  • Males can reach 2 feet in length, and females grow a bit larger, up to almost 3 feet.
  • Males sexually mature when they reach 3 to 7 years old, and females are able to reproduce when they reach 4 to 8 years old.
  • Spawning season varies by location:
    • Off the West Coast from late fall through early spring.
    • In the Gulf of Alaska during spring and summer.
    • Off the coast of Alaska during fall and winter.
  • They spawn multiple times during a spawning season, releasing eggs that are then fertilized externally.
  • Arrowtooth flounder eggs hatch in deep water (below 400 meters) and rise up the water column as they develop, then settle to the ocean bottom during the summer and fall.
  • Larvae eat copepods, a type of small crustacean.
  • Juveniles and adults feed on crustaceans (mainly pink shrimp and krill) and fish (mainly cod, herring, and pollock).
  • A variety of fish and marine mammals prey on arrowtooth flounder, including skates, sharks, shortspine thornyhead, halibut, orcas, other toothed whales, and harbor seals.
  • In the Gulf of Alaska, arrowtooth flounder are an important part of the diet of Steller sea lions.

Last updated: 09/19/2018