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Widow Rockfish

Sebastes entomelas

Widow Rockfish

Also Known As

  • Brown bomber
  • Soft brown
  • Brownie
  • Belinda bass

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

Population

Above target population levels on the Pacific Coast.

Fishing Rate

At recommended levels.

Habitat Impacts

Most fishing gear used to harvest widow rockfish rarely contacts the ocean floor and has minimal impacts on habitat. 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 of overfished and protected species.

  • Availability

    Year-round.

  • Source

    U.S. wild-caught from the central Gulf of Alaska to northern Baja California.

  • Taste

    Delicate, nutty flavor.

  • Texture

    Lean with a medium-fine texture.

  • Color

    Raw flesh varies from light pink or translucent, to pink, to red, and turns white when cooked.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

Harvest

  • In 2016, commercial landings of widow rockfish on the West Coast totaled more than 2 million pounds and were valued at $725,014.
  • The majority of the catch, about 98 percent, comes from Oregon and Washington and the remaining 2 percent comes from California and Alaska.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Primarily harvested with midwater trawl gear, which has minimal impacts on ocean bottom habitats. To a lesser extent, harvested with bottom trawl gear.
    • Midwater and bottom trawls may sometimes catch other species of fish, including overfished and protected species.
      • Gear restrictions, closed areas, and catch share programs limit when, where, and how much trawl fishermen can harvest to reduce bycatch of other species.
      • Rockfish conservation areas eliminate fishing in areas on the West Coast where overfished rockfish species co-occur with target stocks, like widow rockfish. These closed areas help prevent bycatch of overfished rockfish.
    • Widow rockfish are often caught incidentally in the Pacific whiting fishery
      • Managers are working to reduce incidental catch through the use of annual catch limits and catch shares.
  • Recreational anglers fish for widow rockfish, but they comprise only a minor part of recreational groundfish fisheries.

The Science

Population Status

  • According to the 2015 stock assessment, the West Coast stock of widow rockfish is not overfished and not subject to overfishing based on 2016 catch data.
    • Due to the quick expansion of the West Coast fishery, West Coast widow rockfish populations were depleted and declared overfished in 2001.
    • Fishery managers implemented a rebuilding plan in 2001, and declared the stock rebuilt in 2011.
  • According to the 2017 stock assessment, the Gulf of Alaska widow rockfish stock is not subject to overfishing but the population status is unknown.
    • Widow rockfish are not assessed individually, but are grouped together under a complex with other rockfish.

Location

  • Widow rockfish are found between the Gulf of Alaska and northern Baja California.
  • Adults are rarely seen in California and are most abundant from British Columbia to northern California.

Habitat

  • Widow rockfish are found at depths ranging from 80 to 1,200 feet.
  • Both juveniles and adults exist in large schools and are found above large jagged rocks and near cobblestone.

Physical Description

  • Widow rockfish are dusky-brown with traces of light yellow and red.
  • They have black fin membranes and a strongly slanted anal fin.
  • They have weak or reduced (short) head spines and a mouth that is relatively small when compared to other rockfish.

Biology

  • Widow rockfish reach lengths up to 24 inches and may live as long as 60 years, but fish older than 20 are uncommon.
  • Males grow faster than females, but females reach larger sizes.
  • Widow rockfish mature at about 8 years old or when they are about 16.5 inches long.
  • Widow rockfish are internal fertilizers, and larvae are released alive in January or February.
  • Juveniles feed on krill and copepods.
  • Older fish feed on juvenile crabs, amphipods, krill, and small fishes. 
  • Chinook salmon and northern fur seals feed on juvenile widow rockfish.

Research

  • NOAA’s Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Science Centers survey the abundance of widow rockfish off the West Coast and Alaska.
  • Scientists do not typically assess widow rockfish as part of a single-species abundance survey. Widow rockfish are more commonly assessed along with other groundfish.

Last updated: 06/20/2018