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Latin Name

Anoplopoma fimbria

Group Name


Taxonomy details


Sablefish are found near the continental shelf and slope of the Pacific Ocean, their eastern range beginning near Baja, California and extending north to British Columbia and Alaska, then westward over the Bering Strait to Kamchatka and Japan. Adult sablefish are found near bottom over soft substrate, living at depths of up to 2,700 metres; juveniles migrate inshore for several years, where they can be found in shallow waters, and then migrate offshore as adults.

Species Description

Sablefish have a slim, elongated body covered with small scales. They have a large mouth filled with very small teeth and a tail with a slight indent. On their dorsal side, sablefish are dark grey or greyish-green, often with paler blotches, and have two widely separated dorsal fins. Their underside is pale grey to white. Sablefish can grow to be quite large, to more than a metre in length and can weigh between 11 and 25 kilograms. They are long-lived, with some reaching over 80 years of age.

Sablefish Life History

drawing: sablefish

Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria), often referred to as Blackcod, inhabit shelf and slope water to depths of > 1500 m, from central Baja California to Japan and the Bering sea. Abundance is centered in northern BC and the Gulf of Alaska. Although, there is sufficient movement among areas to consider sablefish throughout their range as one population genetically, the movement of adults is limited enough to enable assessment and management on a smaller scale. Independent assessments are conducted by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service for the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and Wash-Calif.. In Canada, DFO conducts separate analyses for northern and southern B.C. waters, with a split at approximately 51.25 ° N latitude based on differing patterns of recruitment and growth.

This species spawns in Jan-March along the continental shelf at depths greater than 1000 m. Larval sablefish are found in surface waters over the shelf and slope in April and May. Juveniles migrate inshore over the following six months and rear in nearshore and shelf habitats until age 2-5 when they migrate offshore and into the fishery. Juveniles are highly migratory with significant movement from nursery areas in Hecate Strait to the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. Growth is very rapid with female average size at maturity of 55 cm attained at 3-5 years. Maximum sizes are ~80cm and the oldest fish aged to date is 113 years. Age, growth and maturity parameters vary considerably among areas and depths.

Sablefish recruitment is variable with strong year -classes that occur periodically . The production of strong year-classes is believed linked to higher copepod abundance arising from favourable environmental conditions. The long lived nature of this species is likely a strategy to ensure survival over extended periods of low recruitment resulting from environmentally unfavourable conditions.

Sablefish Fishery

Sablefish have a long history of exploitation with recorded landings starting in 1913. Foreign fishing was conducted from 1961 to 1981 and gradually phased out after the declaration of the 200-mile fishery conservation zone in 1977.

The domestic fishery is conducted using longline Korean traps with modest amounts landed using longline-hooks and trawl nets. The longline fisheries are deepwater, targeting depths between 500 and 1000 m. Sablefish longline fishers are regulated under a "K" tab license and can fish either hooks or traps. This fishery has operated under an Individual Transferable Quota system (ITQ) since 1990. The trawl fishery is allocated approximately 8% of the available quota.


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