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Pacific Ocean Perch

Sebastes alutus

Pacific Ocean Perch

Also Known As

  • POP
  • Rockfish

U.S. wild-caught Pacific ocean perch 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. On the West Coast, regulations prohibit a directed ocean perch fishery, but allow limited incidental catch.

Habitat Impacts

Area closures and gear restrictions protect sensitive rocky, cold-water coral and sponge habitats from bottom trawl gear.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Year-round.

  • Source

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

  • Taste

    Delicate, nutty flavor.

  • Texture

    Lean, fairly firm, with a fine flake.

  • Color

    Whole fish should have shiny and bright skin. The raw flesh is white, but turns opaque white when cooked.

  • Health Benefits

    Low in saturated fat and very high in selenium, phosphorous, and vitamin B12.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the Pacific ocean perch fishery in Alaska.
  • Managed under the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fishery Management Plans:
    • Permits are required and the number of available permits is limited to control the amount of fishing.
    • Managers determine how much Pacific ocean perch can be caught and then allocate this catch quota among groups of fishermen. 
    • Catch is monitored through record keeping, reporting requirements, and observer monitoring.
    • A percentage of the Aleutian Islands catch is allocated to the Community Development Quota Program, which benefits fishery-dependent communities in western Alaska. The rest is allocated among the BSAI trawl sectors, based on historic harvest and future harvest needs, to improve retention and utilization of fishery resources by the trawl fleet.
    • The Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Program 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. The goal of the program is to spread out the fishery in time and space, allowing fishermen more flexibility to sell their catch for better prices and reducing the pressure of what was once an approximately 2-week fishery in July. 
  • NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the Pacific ocean perch fishery on the West Coast.
  • Managed under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan:
    • NOAA Fisheries declared the Pacific coast stock of Pacific ocean perch overfished in 1999. The council adopted a rebuilding plan for the stock in 2000, which prohibited a directed fishery for the species. The stock was declared rebuilt in 2017.
      • May be 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. 
    • The regulations listed below that apply to all Pacific groundfish fisheries also provide for the conservation and management of Pacific ocean perch:
      • 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 that includes:
        • Catch limits that are based on the population status of each fish stock and divided into shares that are allocated to individual fishermen or groups. 
        • Provisions that allow fishermen to decide how and when to catch their share.

 

Harvest

  • In 2016, commercial landings of Pacific ocean perch totaled more than 114 million pounds and were valued at more than $23 million.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Bottom trawls are primarily used to catch Pacific ocean perch, although pelagic trawls are also used.
    • Bottom trawls can contact the ocean floor and impact habitats, depending on the type and sensitivity of the habitat and the size of the gear.
    • Trawls cause minimal damage when targeting species over soft, sandy, or muddy ocean bottoms.
    • For Alaska and the West Coast, NOAA Fisheries and the regional fishery management councils have implemented large closed areas to protect sensitive rocky, cold-water coral and sponge habitats from bottom trawls.
    • In Alaska, trawl fishermen targeting Pacific ocean perch might incidentally catch Pacific cod, arrowtooth flounder, rockfish, and sablefish. Halibut, salmon, and crab may also be caught as bycatch.
      • Pacific cod and sablefish are generally retained due to their high commercial value.
      • Bycatch limits prevent too much bycatch of other species from being caught. If a target groundfish fishery exceeds a bycatch limit, the fishery may close for the remainder of the season.
    • On the West Coast, area closures, reduced trip limits, non-retention rules, gear restrictions, and variable catch limits are used to help minimize impact to overfished rockfish species and prevent bycatch.

The Science

Population Status

  • According to the 2017 stock assessment, the Gulf of Alaska stock of Pacific ocean perch is not overfished and not subject to overfishing.
  • According to the 2017 stock assessment, the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands stock of Pacific ocean perch is not overfished and not subject to overfishing.
  • According to the 2017 stock assessment, the Pacific Coast stock of Pacific ocean perch is rebuilt, not overfished, and not subject to overfishing based on 2016 catch data.

Location

  • Pacific ocean perch are found off the coast of North America from California to the Western Aleutian Islands in Alaska. 
  • They are less commonly found south of Oregon and are particularly rare in Southern California.

Habitat

  • Pacific ocean perch live in deeper waters of the upper continental slope and along the edge of the continental shelf. 
  • Larvae and young juveniles live near the surface, while older juveniles and adults live near the ocean floor. 
  • Adults prefer sandy and rocky ocean bottoms, areas with vertical relief, and ocean habitats with structure-forming invertebrates, like coral. 
  • Adults migrate to shallow waters in the summer and offshore in the fall and winter to spawn and live.

Physical Description

  • Pacific ocean perch are light red with several diffuse, olive-green patches on their upper backs where the body begins to narrow towards the tail fin. They also possess a prominent, cone-shaped knob on their lower jaw.

Biology

  • Pacific ocean perch grow slowly and may live to be 98 years old. 
  • They grow to about 20 inches long and weigh about 4 pounds. 
  • They do not reproduce until they are around 10 years old. 
  • Depending on their size, females can produce between 10,000 and 300,000 eggs.
  • Pacific ocean perch mate in the fall. Eggs develop inside the female and receive some nourishment from the mother.  
  • Eggs hatch internally, and females release the larvae in the spring. 
  • Larvae eat small zooplankton (tiny floating organisms).
  • Juveniles and adults feed on copepods and krill, and adults will also eat small fishes.  
  • Pacific ocean perch move off ocean bottom habitats during the day, following daily migrations of krill. 
  • Seabirds, other rockfish, salmon, lingcod, and other large bottom-dwelling fish feed on juveniles. Sablefish, halibut, and sperm whales feed on adult Pacific ocean perch. 

Last updated: 12/03/2018