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Yellowtail Flounder

Limanda ferruginea

Yellowtail flounder

Also Known As

  • Flounder
  • Rusty dab

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

Population

The Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine stock is below target population levels. The Georges Bank and Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stocks are significantly below target population levels. Rebuilding plans are in place for all three stocks.

Fishing Rate

At recommended levels in Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine and Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic. In Georges Bank the fishing rate is reduced to end overfishing.

Habitat Impacts

Area closures and gear restrictions protect habitats that are affected by some kinds of trawl gear.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Year-round.

  • Source

    U.S. wild-caught from Maine to New Jersey.

  • Taste

    Sweet and mild.

  • Texture

    Lean, boneless, flaky, and firm.

  • Color

    Raw flounder ranges in color from white to pinkish to tan. Cooked flounder is pure white.

  • Health Benefits

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

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • There are three stocks of yellowtail flounder in U.S. waters, the Gulf of Maine/Cape Cod, Georges Bank, and Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stocks.
  • NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council manage Gulf of Maine and Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic yellowtail flounder; NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council collaborate with Canada to jointly manage Georges Bank yellowtail flounder, because the stock spans the international boundary.
  • Yellowtail flounder, along with other groundfish in New England waters, are managed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, which includes:
    • Permitting requirements for commercial vessels.
    • Separate management measures for recreational vessels.
    • Time/Area Closures to protect spawning fish and habitat.
    • Minimum fish sizes to prevent harvest of juvenile fish.
    • Annual catch limits, based on best available science.
    • An optional sector (catch share) program can be used for yellowtail flounder and other groundfish species. The sector program allows fishermen to form harvesting cooperatives and work together to decide when, where, and how they harvest fish.

 

Harvest

  • Commercial fishery:
    • In 2018, commercial landings of yellowtail flounder totaled more than 980,000 pounds, and were valued at over $1 million.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Yellowtail flounder are commonly harvested using trawl nets and, to a lesser extent, gillnets.
    • Areas closures and gear restrictions reduce habitat impacts from trawl nets.  Fishermen follow management measures to designed to reduce interactions with marine mammals, including gear modifications, seasonal closures, and use of marine mammal deterrents.
  • Recreational fishery:
    • Yellowtail flounder are not commonly encountered by the recreational fishery.
    • Regulations include minimum fish sizes and possession limits.

The Science

Population Status

  • According to the 2019 stock assessment, the Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stock of yellowtail flounder is overfished but not subject to overfishing. The stock is at 5 percent of the biomass target level.
  • According to the 2019 stock assessment, the Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine stock is not overfished but still rebuilding to the target level, and not subject to overfishing. 
  • According to the 2013 stock assessment, the Georges Bank stock is overfished and is subject to overfishing. The stock is at 2 percent of the biomass target level.

Location

  • Yellowtail flounder are found along the Atlantic coast of North America from Newfoundland to the Chesapeake Bay.

Habitat

  • Yellowtail flounder are relatively sedentary.
  • They live on sandy bottoms in waters between 130 and 230 feet deep.

Physical Description

  • Yellowtail flounder is a thin-bodied, right-eyed flounder.
  • They are wide – nearly half as broad as they are long – with an oval body.
  • They have a small mouth and an arched lateral line.
  • Their upper side, including the fins, is brownish or olive, tinged with red and marked with large, irregular rusty red spots.
  • True to their name, their tail fin and the edges of the two long fins are yellow.
  • The underside is white, except for the caudal peduncle (the area between the body and the tail), which is yellowish.

Biology

  • Yellowtail flounder grow faster than most flatfish, up to 22 inches and 2.2 pounds.
  • They can live up to 17 years, although most don’t live past age 7.
  • They also mature earlier than most flatfish.
  • Almost all females are able to reproduce by the time they reach age 3.
  • They spawn during the spring and summer.
  • Females deposit their eggs on the ocean floor. After the eggs are fertilized, they float to the surface and the larvae drift in surface waters for about 2 months.
  • When yellowtail flounder are first hatched, their eyes are symmetrical, with an eye on each side of their head. As the fish grows, it flattens out and the left eye slowly moves over to the right side of its head. After this metamorphosis, the juvenile settles to the ocean bottom.
  • Juvenile yellowtail flounder mostly eat worms.
  • Adults feed on crustaceans and worms.
  • Spiny dogfish, skate, and a number of fish such as cod, hakes, flounder, and monkfish prey on yellowtail flounder.

Research

  • Scientists at NOAA Fisheries 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 assess and monitor the abundance of yellowtail flounder and other species. Managers use this data along with information from Canadian, state agency, and university-run surveys to determine the status of the yellowtail flounder stocks.
  • 2019 Northeast Groundfish Operational Stock Assessments

Last updated: 03/20/2020