Rougheye Rockfish - Type I & II

Sebastes aleutianus type I Sebastes aleutianus type II

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

General Description

Rougheye rockfish belongs to the family Scorpaenidae and its name – rougheye – refers to a series of spines along the lower rim of the eyes. Rougheye rockfish are possibly among the longest lived fish species on earth. In Alaska, scientists aged one specimen to 205 years.

It has recently been discovered that rougheye probably comprise two distinct species with possibly different depth distributions. The two types have similar appearances with slight variations in colour. Scientifically, they are currently known simply as Type I and Type II.

Rougheye rockfish appear red with dark or dusky blotches of pigment in the back dorsal region. It has a light red lateral line and all but the pectoral fins are usually marked with black ends. Rougheye rockfish can attain lengths up to 100 cm.

Distribution and Population

Rougheye rockfish are widely distributed and occur on both sides of the Pacific Ocean: in North America from Alaska to southern California, and in Asia from northern Japan up to the Bering Sea. In British Columbia, they occur along the continental slope, and are typically found at depths between 170 and 660 m.

Although population estimates are unavailable for Canadian waters, the Canadian commercial fishery has reported a relatively consistent catch of between 1000 and 1500 tonnes annually over the last 2 decades.

Habitat

Highest densities of rougheye rockfish occur on the sea floor with soft substrates, in areas with frequent boulders and on slopes greater than 20°. Boulders may act as territorial markers, current deflectors, or structures that help them hunt for prey. It appears that this species avoids flat bottoms. Rougheye rockfish co-occur with numerous commercially harvested species, including arrowtooth flounder, Pacific ocean perch, Dover sole, petrale sole, shortspine thornyhead, and sablefish.

Biology

Rougheye rockfish primarily eat shrimp, but will also eat various fish species such as walleye pollock, Pacific herring and eulachon. The principal spawning period off British Columbia is in April. Like all viviparous Sebastes species, fertilized eggs remain within the ovary until emerging as larvae. While there is limited information on rougheye rockfish specifically, it is known that Sebastes larvae occur near the surface whereas juveniles live at midwater depths. Sebastes larvae can be found up to 500 km offshore from the BC coast, far from adult habitat.

Threats

The primary threat to the BC population stems from overfishing. Because rougheye rockfish live on the ocean floor, both trawl and hook and line fishing affect this species. From 1971 to 2005, the combined trawl and longline fleets removed 25,590 t of rougheye rockfish biomass from BC coastal waters.

Although population estimates are not available, a comparison of 2003 data to 1996 data suggests that older aged rougheye rockfish (those 50 years and over) have declined. There is some evidence to suggest that mortality rates from all sources may have doubled in recent years; however, age samples from the commercial fishery can often be biased due to selectivity issues. Long-lived and low-reproducing Sebastes species, such as rougheye rockfish, are particularly susceptible to population collapse. The lack of information on relative abundance, distribution and threats to rougheye rockfish also constitute a threat. As well, difficulty in separating the two species increases the risk of potential impacts on one of the species going unnoticed.

Existing Protection

Fisheries for this species pair are managed through a fisheries management plan (DFO 2007). Under this plan, fishing quotas are set for rougheye rockfish. Industry plays an active role in fishery management through scientific collaboration, including significant funding towards research surveys, at sea catch monitoring using onboard observers and electronic monitoring of vessels and dockside monitoring of all landings.

This species has been identified as Special Concern and it is listed under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).

What’s being done

A management plan for the rougheye rockfish type I and II has been developed.

What can you do?

The rougheye rockfish will get the protection it needs only if all Canadians work together to reduce threats. Find out more about this species and be aware of human-induced threats. Do your best to reduce these threats wherever possible to better protect its vital habitat. Get involved with the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk (HSP) or another conservation organization.

Profile based on:

COSEWIC 2007. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Rougheye Rockfish Sebastes sp. type I and Sebastes sp. type II in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. viii + 36 pp. (www.sararegistry.gc.ca/default_e.cfm).

Species at Risk (SARA) Public Registry Profiles

Rougheye Rockfish - Type I & II

Rougheye Rockfish - Type I & II

Sebastes aleutianus type I & Sebastes aleutianus. type II
© NOAA

Scientific name: Sebastes aleutianus type I Sebastes aleutianus type II
SARA Status: Special Concern (2009)
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern (2007)
Region : Pacific Ocean

Related Information