Yelloweye Rockfish (Pacific Ocean Inside and Outside Waters Populations)

Sebastes ruberrimus

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

The Yelloweye Rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus) is one of 102 species of rockfish belonging to the genus Sebastes. Yelloweye Rockfish are one of the largest rockfish, reaching a maximum recorded length of 91 cm and weight of 11.3 kg. They are easily identified by their bright orange to red colouration and bright yellow eyes. Adults usually have a light to white stripe on their lateral line, while juveniles are darker red in colour, and have two light stripes on and below the lateral line.

Female Yelloweye produce between 1.2 and 2.7 million eggs annually. Mating takes place in November, then females may store the sperm for weeks prior to fertilization, and the fertilized eggs are laid in May and June.

Yelloweye Rockfish are solitary benthic dwellers with small home ranges. They can live to 115 years in British Columbia, and females reach 50% maturity at about 16 and 20 years of age for the outside and inside waters populations, respectively. On average, females tend to be larger and older than the males, and can reach a maximum size of 88 cm in British Columbia.

There are two distinct Designatable Units of Yelloweye Rockfish within the coastal waters of British Columbia. The Pacific Ocean Inside waters Yelloweye population inhabits the Strait of Georgia, Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Strait. The Pacific Ocean Outside waters population extends from at least southeast Alaska through to northern Oregon, including the whole of the British Columbia offshore, north and central coast waters. The two Yelloweye populations are distinguished on the basis of genetic information indicating restricted gene flow, and age at maturity.

Based on the 2012 and 2015 stock assessment surveys, both the Inside and Outside waters populations are estimated to have declined to 12% and 18%, respectively, of the estimated initial biomass in 1918 (DFO 2012; DFO 2015).

Habitat

Yelloweye are found only in the northeast Pacific and have been observed from Ensenada, Baja California to Umnak Island in the Aleutian Islands. They are present throughout the coastal waters of British Columbia.

Fisheries harvest 95% of their Yelloweye catch between 19 and 251 m depth. Yelloweye Rockfish have been observed from submersibles in depths from 30 to 232 m, over substrates that are hard, complex and with some vertical relief, such as broken rock, rock reefs, ridges, overhangs, crevices, caves, cobble and boulder fields.

Threats

Fishing is the most significant threat to Yelloweye in Canada. Commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries and scientific surveys on the Pacific coast all target Yelloweye, along with other rockfish species. Yelloweye are also harvested as bycatch in other commercial fisheries. Yelloweye are particularly vulnerable to commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fishing because they are a nearshore species, and 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. Catch in inside waters has been more intense and happened for a longer period than in outside waters. Like other rockfish species, Yelloweye cannot rapidly adjust to changes in pressure; as a result, they often die when brought to the surface.

Further Information

Yelloweye Rockfish do not have any international status designations. In American waters to the south of British Columbia, Yelloweye Rockfish have been designated as “overfished” since 2002 and the species is under a rebuilding plan from Washington to California.

In Canada, total allowable catch (TAC) of Yelloweye Rockfish in commercial fisheries was reduced by 50% outside and 75% inside between 2001 and 2002, in response to concerns about population status. Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCA), closed to all commercial and recreational fishing, protect rockfish habitat with a goal of protecting 20% and 30% of rockfish habitat within RCAs for the outside and inside waters, respectively. Currently 164 such RCAs are in place.

This species is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available on the Species at Risk Public Registry. Additionally, fisheries protection and pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act provide additional protection to this species.

To find out if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' website.

Species at Risk Public Registry Profile

Yelloweye Rockfish (Pacific Ocean inside and outside waters populations)

Yelloweye Rockfish

Yelloweye Rockfish

Scientific Name: Sebastes ruberrimus
SARA Status: Special Concern (2011)
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern (2008)
Region: Pacific

Region: Pacific Ocean

Map showing the location of the Yelloweye Rockfish in the Pacific Ocean

This map represents the location of the Yelloweye Rockfish in the Pacific Ocean

Did You Know?

Yelloweye are a long-lived rockfish species, growing slowly and maturing late. They can live to 115 years in British Columbia.

Related Information