Pacific Northwest Marine Life Encyclopedia – Yelloweye Rockfish
The Yelloweye Rockfish, or “red snapper” (Sebastes ruberrimus), is a rockfish of the genus Sebastes, and one of the biggest members of this genus. The Yelloweye is one of the world’s longest-lived fish species, and is cited to live to a maximum of 114 to 120 years of age. As they grow older, they change in colour: from reddish in youth, to bright orange in adulthood, and pale yellow in old age. Yelloweye Rockfish live in rocky areas and feed on small fish and other rockfish. They reside in the East Pacific and range from Baja California to Prince William Sound in Alaska.
Yelloweye Rockfish are coloured red on its back, orange to yellow on the sides, and black on the fin tips. Their young are typically under 28 cm (11 in) in length, and differ from the adults in that they have two reddish-white stripes along their belly,and are often reddish in colour. Because of the distinct difference in colouration between juveniles and adults, they were considered a separate species for a long time. Yelloweyes have exceptionally strong head spines and can grow to a maximum length of 36 in (0.9 m). These rockfish are typically found in the 28-to-215-fathom (51 to 393 m) range, although specimens have been reported up to a maximum depth of 260 fathoms (475 m). They are typically found in deeper, rocky-bottomed areas; in fact, they often spend their entire lifetime on a single rock pile.
Yelloweye rockfish live to be extremely old, even for their unusually long-lived genus. They average 114to 120years of age; with the oldest ones reaching as much as 147 years. They are exceptionally slow developing as well, not reaching maturity until they are around 20 years of age.
Fishing is the main known threat to the Yelloweye Rockfish population in Canada. Aboriginal, recreational, and commercial fisheries on the Pacific coast all have targeted Yelloweye Rockfish, along with other rockfish species. Yelloweye rockfish are prized for their meat, and were declared overfished in 2002, at which time a survey determined that their population, which had been in decline since the 1980s, was just 7-13% of numbers before commercial fishing of the species began. Because of the slow maturation rate of this fish, recovery of the species is difficult, and liable to last decades, even with the harshest restrictions. Yelloweyes are currently under consideration for listing under Threatened or Endangered status. Yelloweye Rockfish are particularly vulnerable to commercial and recreational fishing because they live near the shore and because their large size makes them a desirable catch. As one of the largest, longest-lived and latest-maturing rockfishes, Yelloweye populations are especially sensitive to mortality caused by human activities.
Yelloweye Rockfish have been identified as Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and are being considered for listing under the Federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). Currently, protection is afforded through the Federal Fisheries Act and Environmental Protection Act. If listed under SARA, they will be afforded additional protection and the development of a management plan for the populations would also be required.
Rockfish Conservation Areas (areas closed to fishing) protect 20% of rockfish habitats in outside waters and 30% of rockfish habitats in inside waters. As of 2007, 164 such areas were established. Finding adult Yelloweye Rockfish a depths accessible to divers can be quite challenging however many inshore areas are home to juveniles. Search the cracks along rocky reefs to find the brightly coloured young Yelloweye’s.
Rockfish Conservation Booklet – Link
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