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Yellowtail rockfish

Sebastes flavidus

Yellowtail rockfish

Also Known As

  • Yellowtail rockfish
  • Greenie
  • Yellow sea perch
  • Rock Cod
  • Pacific Snapper

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

Population

The northern Pacific coast stock is above its target population level. The southern Pacific coast stock is unknown.

Fishing Rate

At recommended levels.

Habitat Impacts

Most fishing gear used to harvest yellowtail 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 Kodiak Island Alaska to Baja California.

  • Taste

    Very mild, slightly sweet flavor.

  • Texture

    Very lean with medium to firm texture and medium sized flakes.

  • Color

    Meat is glistening bright white with a pinkish sheen.

  • Health Benefits

    Rockfish are high in selenium.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the yellowtail rockfish fishery on the West Coast.
  • Yellowtail rockfish are managed as a single stock north of Cape Mendocino, California, and southward, as part of the southern Pacific coast minor shelf rockfish complex.
  • Managed under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan:
    • Permits and limited entry to the fishery.
    • 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 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.
    • Yellowtail rockfish have been underutilized. The recent harvest rule changes to the catch share program will allow increased catches of underutilized species, such as yellowtail and chilipepper rockfish, lingcod, and Pacific cod. These changes were possible because of improvements observed in other stocks that had previously constrained the harvest of fish like yellowtail rockfish due to low population levels.
  • NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council manage yellowtail rockfish as part of the Gulf of Alaska other rockfish complex.
  • Managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska:
    • There is no directed fishing for this species in the Gulf of Alaska, and only minor amounts are landed incidentally in other fisheries.

Harvest

  • Commercial fishery:
    • In 2017, commercial landings of yellowtail rockfish totaled more than 6.3 million pounds and were valued at more than $1.8 million. The majority of landings are in Oregon and Washington.
  • 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 canary rockfish. These closed areas help prevent bycatch of overfished rockfish.
    • Yellowtail 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.

The Science

Population Status

  • According to the 2017 stock assessment, the northern Pacific coast stock of yellowtail rockfish is not overfished and not subject to overfishing.
  • The yellowtail rockfish stock on the West Coast is part of the southern Pacific coast minor shelf rockfish complex. The overfished status of this complex is unknown. The stock complex is not subject to overfishing based on 2016 catch data.

Location

  • Yellowtail rockfish are found along the Pacific coast of North America and range from Kodiak Island, Alaska to Baja California, Mexico.

Habitat

  • Yellowtail rockfish inhabit depths ranging from 0 to 1800 feet, and are commonly found along the middle continental shelf, near the ocean floor.
  • Larvae and juveniles live near the surface, while older juveniles migrate deeper to near the ocean floor.
  • Adults are semi-pelagic or pelagic and spend time near steep slopes and above rocky reefs.

Physical Description

  • Yellowtail rockfish are greyish brown on top and fade to white on the belly.
  • Their body has trace yellow spotting.
  • Yellowtail tail fins are yellowish green.
  • Their other fins have a darker yellowish green coloration.

Biology

  • Yellowtail rockfish mature between three and five years old.
  • They can live up to 50 years.
  • They grow more than two feet in length.
  • Females can produce between 50,000 and 600,000 eggs, depending on the size of the female.
  • Yellowtail rockfish have internal fertilization and the females give birth to live young.
  • Adults feed on shellfish, such as shrimp, and small forage fish, such as anchovies.
  • Yellowtail rockfish are unique in that they can rapidly release gas from their swim bladders.
  • When caught at depth the yellowtail rockfish can avoid barotrauma that kills most other species.

Research

  • NOAA’s Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Science Centers survey the abundance of yellowtail rockfish off the West Coast and Alaska.
  • Yellowtail rockfish is not typically assessed as part of a single-species abundance survey. It is more commonly assessed along with other groundfish.

Last updated: 10/11/2019