COMMERCIAL FOOD FISH
Orange roughy The top ten wild species with the largest catches by weight n 2019 were: 1) Peruvian anchovy(anchoveta): 2) Alaska pollock (Engraulis ringens); walleye pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus); 3) skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis); 4) Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus); 5) yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares); 6) blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou); 7) European pilchard (Sardina pilchardus); 8) Pacific chub mackerel (Scomber japonicus); 9) Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and 10) largehead hairtail (Trichiurus lepturus). According to the FAO on average, 66.7 percent of these stocks were fished within biologically sustainable levels in 2019, slightly higher than the global average of 64.4 percent. European pilchard, Atlantic cod and Atlantic herring had higher than average proportions of overfished stocks. [Source: “State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022", Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations]
Cod, salmon and flounders in the wild have become smaller as fishermen, since the 1980s, have only taken fish of a certain size. Orange roughy is a mild-tasting, white-fleshed fish popular in Europe and the United States. A deep-sea fish, it grows extremely slowly, taking 25 years to reach sexual maturity. It may live as long a 100 years. Originally called slimehead, it wasn’t fished commercially until 1979, now its fisheries are largely depleted. As with the Chilean sea bass, because the fish lives so long and breeds slowly it takes a long time for it to come back.
Mullet have low set eyes and high pectoral fins and look like they are swimming upside down. The red mullet is a valued food fish. It is reddish in color and has a dark red stripe along the middle of its sides. It has a downward point mouth and a pair of whisker-like barbels under the chin that serve as sensory organs to help the fish find food. The barbels give the mullet an appearance of a goat, hence its name goatfish. The organs are especially sensitive to vibrations of mud-dwelling crustaceans, worms, and mollusks that the red mullet feeds on.
Websites and Resources: Animal Diversity Web (ADW) animaldiversity.org; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noaa.gov; Fishbase fishbase.se ; Encyclopedia of Life eol.org ; Smithsonian Oceans Portal ocean.si.edu/ocean-life-ecosystems
Top Medium-Size Commercial Fish Species
Top Medium-Size Commercial Fish Species (not including tunas, mackerel and salmon, see separate sections and articles on them)
Common name — Scientific name — Harvest in tonnes (1000 kilograms)
1) Alaska pollock — Theragra chalcogramma — 3,271,426 tonnes This species is often the main ingredient in the so-called crab sticks.
2) Largehead hairtail— Trichiurus lepturus — 1,235,373 tonnes. This is a common fish and popular eating fish in Japan.
3) Atlantic Cod — Gadus morhua — 1,114,382 tonnes
4) Pacific cod — Gadus macrocephalus — 474,047 tonnes
[Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2012; Wikipedia]
5) Pacific saury — Cololabis saira — 460,961 tonnes
6) Yellow croaker — Larimichthys polyactis — 437,613 tonnes
7) Haddock — Melanogrammus aeglefinus — 430,917 tonnes
8) Blue whiting — Micromesistius poutassou — 378,794 tonnes
9) Hilsa shad — Tenualosa ilisha — 376,734 tonnes
10) Daggertooth pike conger — Muraenesox cinereus — 372,704 tonnes
11) Pollock — Pollachius virens — 336,838 tonnes
12) Argentine hake — Merluccius hubbsi — 318,067 tonnes
13) Bonga shad — Ethmalosa fimbriata — 249,422 tonnes. This is an important fish in west Africa.
14) North Pacific hake — Merluccius productus — 206,985 tonnes five species in the genus Opisthonema tonnes
15) Bigeye scad — Selar crumenophthalmus — 200,617 tonnes
16) Yellowstripe scad — Selaroides leptolepis — 198,600 tonnes
17) Pacific sand lance, Pacific sandlance — Ammodytes personatus — 175,892 tonnes Mostly manufactured into oil and meal, but also used as food in Japan.
Chilean Sea Bass and Antarctic Toothfish
Chilean sea bass is a popular seafood fish originally known as Patagonian toothfish. It is prized for its oil-rich flesh which tastes good after cooking. Found in waters in the Antarctic and unrelated to any true sea bass, it resembles a cod and can each lengths of seven feet and live to the age of 70, perhaps much longer, and thrives in depths up to 4,000 meters. Its fisheries are largely depleted. Because the fish lives so long and breeds slowly it takes a long time for it to come back.
In the 1980s the largely unknown Patagonian toothfish was plentiful in the deep waters of Antarctica. After its name was changed to the menu-friendly “Chilean sea bass” it became a staple of upscale restaurants, where it was prized for its mild flavor, allowing chefs to show off their sauce-making skills. By the early 20000s stocks of the fish were depleted as a result of overfishing..
Chilean sea bass is often caught illegally, especially in remote waters off the Antarctic. They and orange roughy are often caught with deep-sea trawling nets that are very damaging to the ocean floor and the marine life that lives there. Fishermen are increasingly turning to deep sea fishing as fisheries in shallower water become played out.
Antarctic toothfish is a bottom-dwelling fish that can survive in Antarctic waters because it has special proteins in its blood that serve as a kind of “antifreeze” and it doesn’t have a swim bladder but is kept buoyant with light bones and large amounts of body fat. Like many fish that live in cold water they grow slowly and don’t even reach sexual maturity until they 8 or 10. It grows to a large size and is fed upon by sperm whales, killer whales and elephants seals.
Monkfish is the name are various species of lophiid anglerfishes found in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Members of the genus Lophius, they sometimes called monkfish, fishing-frogs, frog-fish, and sea-devils. They look ugly but taste good. The mostly fished and eaten monkfish in the U.S. is the American angler (Scientific name: Lophius americanus). Also known as goosefish, monktails, angler, allmouth, molligut, abbot and lotte, they have mottled dark brown to olive-green skin on top and whitish skin underneath. They are described as tadpole-like in appearance, with a body that is mostly a broad head with a large mouth and a narrow, tapering body. [Source: NOAA]
In 2021, the commercial landings in the U.S. of monkfish totaled 6.6 million kilograms (15 million pounds) and were valued at $10 million, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database. Monkfish is one of the highest valued finfish in the Northeast. Almost all of the monkfish for sale in the United States comes from U.S. fisheries. Fishermen harvest monkfish using bottom trawls, sink gillnets, and scallop dredges. [Source: NOAA]
There are two stocks of monkfish in U.S. waters: 1) Gulf of Maine- Northern Georges Bank and 2) Southern Georges Bank-Mid-Atlantic. According to the most recent stock assessments these stocks are not overfished and not subject to overfishing (2013 stock assessment). Most monkfish in these two stocks are caught by vessels using bottom-trawl gear targeting groundfish. Although bottom trawls can affect marine habitat, most bottom trawls catch monkfish over sand and mud habitats, which tend to recover from any disturbance more quickly than more structured habitats.
Haddock (Scientific name: Melanogrammus aeglefinus) are a member of the cod family, but they are smaller than Atlantic cod. They have dark lateral lines across their bodies and have distinguishing black blotch "thumbprints" between the line and pectoral fin on each side of their body. Their skin is also less mottled than cod.Also known as scrod, haddock weigh between one and three kilograms (2 and 7 pounds) and are 30 centimeters to one meter (1 to 3 feet) in length at maturity. Their lifespan is 10 or more years although scientists typically catch haddock that are between 3 and 7 years old. [Source: NOAA]
Haddock are found on both sides of the North Atlantic. In the U.S. they can be found off New England and Mid-Atlantic In the western North Atlantic, they’re found from Newfoundland to Cape May, New Jersey, and are most abundant on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine.
Haddock are groundfish — they live near the bottom and prefer habitats of gravel, pebbles, clay, and smooth hard sand. These bottom types are more common on Georges Bank. Haddock are more abundant there than in the Gulf of Maine. Haddock are most common in waters approximately 40 to 150 meters (130 to 500 feet) deep and prefer temperatures below 7̊C (45° F). Juveniles are found in shallower water on bank and shoal areas, while larger adults are more common in deeper water. Adults travel to shallower waters in the spring to spawn..
Haddock are a fast-growing species . Haddock begin to reproduce between the ages of 1 and 4 years old and at 10.5 to 11.7 inches long. They spawn between January and June on eastern Georges Bank, to the east of Nantucket Shoals and along the Maine coast over rock, gravel, sand, or mud bottoms.
Haddock are very productive. Every year, an average-sized female produces around 850,000 eggs, and larger females can produce up to 3 million eggs. Females release their eggs in batches near the ocean floor, where a courting male fertilizes them. Once fertilized, eggs rise to the surface where they drift with ocean currents. Newly hatched haddock remain near the surface for several months before they settle to the bottom.
Haddock feed on a variety of bottom-dwelling animals, including mollusks, worms, crustaceans, sea stars, sea urchins, sand dollars, brittle stars, and occasional fish eggs. Adults sometimes eat small fish, especially herring. Spiny dogfish, skates, and many groundfish species (cod, pollock, cusk, hake, monkfish, halibut, and sea raven) prey on juvenile haddock. Gray seals also prey on haddock..
In 2021, commercial landings of haddock totaled 7.2 million kilograms (16 million pounds) and were valued at approximately $20 million, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database. There are two stocks of haddock in U.S. waters, the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank stocks. The two stocks in these places are not overfished and are not subject to overfishing (2019 stock assessment). [Source: NOAA]
Population: Above target population levels. Fishing Rate: At recommended levels. Habitat Impacts and Bycatch: Area closures and gear restrictions protect habitat that are affected by some kinds of trawl gear. Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch. Population Status: There are two stocks of haddock: Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine stocks. According to the most recent stock assessments:
NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council manage Gulf of Maine haddock; NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council collaborate with Canada to jointly manage Georges Bank haddock, because the stock spans both waters.
Haddock, along with other groundfish in New England waters, are managed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, which includes: 1) Permitting requirements for commercial vessels.; 2) Separate management measures for recreational vessels.; 3) Time/Area Closures to protect spawning fish and habitat; 4) Minimum fish sizes to prevent harvest of juvenile fish; 5) Annual catch limits, based on best available science. An optional sector (catch share) program can be used for cod and other groundfish species. The sector program allows fishermen to form harvesting cooperatives and work together to decide when, where, and how they harvest fish.[Source: NOAA]
Haddock are commonly harvested using trawl nets, gillnets, bottom longlines, and rod and reel. Gillnets, longlines, and rod and reel used to harvest haddock have little to no impact on habitat. Areas closures and gear restrictions reduce habitat impacts from trawl nets. Fishermen follow management measures to designed to reduce interactions with marine mammals, including gear modifications, seasonal closures, and use of marine mammal deterrents.
Haddock are highly prized by recreational fishermen. Recreational vessels make up a significant proportion of the harvest in the Gulf of Maine. Haddock are commonly harvested by anglers fishing offshore waters with bait. Fishing occurs year-round. In 2019, recreational anglers landed more than 816,500 kilograms (1.8 million pounds) , according to the NOAA Fisheries recreational fishing landings database. Regulations include seasons, minimum fish sizes and possession limits.
Red snapper is a name used to describe many species of fish served up at restaurants. The American red snapper reaches a weigh of 16 kilograms (35 pounds) but is usually eaten when it weighs 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds). Adults live around rocky reefs. Juveniles along sandy or muddy bottoms. They are often killed when they are dredged up by shrimp trawlers and tossed overboard as bycatch.
Red snappers can are among the more aggressive predators on the reef, The have needle sharp teeth and a voracious hunger and reach lengths of 70 centimeters (two feet). Red snapper feed on fish, shrimp, crab, worms, cephalopods (octopus or squid), and some plankton (tiny floating plants and animals). Young red snapper are food for the large carnivorous fish that share their habitat, such as jacks, groupers, sharks, barracudas, and morays. Large marine mammals and turtles also eat snapper..
Northern red snapper (Scientific name:Lutjanus campechanus) have a spiny dorsal fin and are light red with darker, deep red coloring on their back. Also known as snapper, genuine red snapper, american reds, spot snapper, they have enlarged canine teeth, which is why they are called “snappers.” Their jaws are equal, with the lower one sometimes slightly projecting. Red snapper in deeper waters tend to be redder than those caught in shallower waters. They have a long triangular face with the upper part sloping more strongly than the lower. In the U.S. they can be found off Southeast. [Source: NOAA]
Northern red snapper grow at a moderate rate, and may reach one meter (40 inches) long and weigh 23 kilograms (50 pounds). They can live a long time — red snapper as old as 57 years have been reported in the Gulf of Mexico and as old as 51 years in the South Atlantic. Females are able to reproduce as early as age 2.
Males and females spawn from May to October, depending on their location. Northern red snapper are generally found at 10 to 200 meters (30 to 620) feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico and along the eastern coasts of North America, Central America, and northern South America.
They are rare north of the Carolinas. Larval red snapper swim freely within the water column.Juveniles live in shallow waters over sandy or muddy bottom habitat. Adults live on the bottom, usually near hard structures on the continental shelf that have moderate to high relief (for example, coral reefs, artificial reefs, rocks, ledges, and caves), sloping soft-bottom areas, and limestone deposits..
Red Snapper Commercial Fishing
In 2020, commercial landings of red snapper totaled approximately 3.5 million kilograms (7.7 million pounds) and were valued at US$31.5 million, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database. Commercial fishermen mainly use hook-and-line gear (handlines and electric reels) to harvest red snapper, and sometimes use longlines (in the Gulf of Mexico) and spears. [Source: NOAA]
U.S. wild-caught red snapper is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed under rebuilding plans that allow limited harvest by U.S. fishermen. Population Status: There are two stocks of red snapper in U.S. waters: The Gulf of Mexico stock and the South Atlantic stock. According to the most recent stock assessments: The Gulf of Mexico stock is not overfished but still rebuilding to target levels (2018 stock assessment), and not subject to overfishing based on 2020 catch data. The South Atlantic stock is overfished and subject to overfishing (2021 stock assessment).
Population: Below target level in the Gulf of Mexico but fishing rate promotes population growth. Significantly below target population levels in the South Atlantic. Rebuilding plans are in place for both stocks. Fishing Rate: At recommended level in the Gulf of Mexico. Reduced to end overfishing in the South Atlantic. Habitat Impacts and Bycatch: Fishing gear used to harvest red snapper has minimal impacts on habitat. Regulations require modified fishing gear to reduce bycatch. Release techniques improve the chance of survival of unintentionally caught fish.[Source: NOAA]
Commercial fishermen must have a permit to harvest red snapper. Through the individual fishing quota (catch shares) program, they may harvest their quotas whenever they choose and must report how much they harvest. A minimum size limit protects the spawning stock and juveniles. In the South Atlantic, a rebuilding plan was implemented in 2010 with the goal of rebuilding the South Atlantic red snapper stock by 2044. It allows for limited harvest of red snapper as the population continues to grow. In 2010 and 2011, regulations prohibited harvest of red snapper in the South Atlantic to protect the population from too much fishing pressure and to allow the number of fish to increase. Limited harvest was allowed in 2012-2014. Harvest was prohibited in 2015 and 2016.
Measures are in place to reduce sea turtle bycatch by longline gear and include limiting times or areas where fishermen can fish, gear restrictions, and a limit on the number of vessels that can participate in the reef fish fishery. In addition, all commercial fishermen must follow special sea turtle release protocols and have specialized gear to improve the chances of incidentally caught sea turtles to survive.
Red Snapper Recreational Fishing
Recreational anglers primarily use hook and line gear to harvest red snapper. In 2020, recreational anglers landed approximately 6.7 million kilograms (14.9 million pounds) of red snapper, according to the NOAA Fisheries recreational fishing landings database.[Source: NOAA]
Regulations prohibit fishing in certain areas of the Gulf of Mexico to protect sensitive fish populations and habitats. Red snapper must be a minimum size to be caught, and there is a limit on how many red snapper anglers can keep per day. Charter vessels and headboats must have a permit to fish in federal waters. For-hire vessels must use specialized gear and follow certain sea turtle release protocols.
In the South Atlantic: Circle hooks are required when fishing for snapper and grouper species north of latitude 28° N. De-hooking devices are also required in the South Atlantic for snapper-grouper species. Measures are in place to reduce sea turtle bycatch by fishing gear and include gear restrictions and handling requirements, and a limit on the number of vessels that can participate in the snapper-grouper fishery. In 2012, 2013, and 2014 the red snapper season was limited. In 2010–2011 and 2015–2016, the red snapper fishery was closed.
Fishermen are encouraged to use venting tools and recompression devices when releasing fish suffering from barotrauma. Barotrauma occurs when the swim bladder of a fish expands as it is quickly brought to the surface. Venting tools help deflate the swim bladder and recompression devices help the fish return to the depth at which it was caught to recompress the air in the swim bladder, preventing serious injury to the fish.
Mackerel are streamlined predatory fish that inhabit cold waters and continental shelf areas and often migrate close to shore in the spring. They form large schools that feed on fish larvae and crustaceans. They often spawn in the spring. Individual females may lay hundreds of thousands of eggs in a season.
Mackerel are an important middle-link in the food chain, providing food for sharks, dolphins, tuna and other large fish and are heavily fished by commercial fishermen. Mackeral often swim with their mouths wide open like “living colanders” to entrap tiny crustaceans in their expanded gill basket.
Top Mackerel Commercial Fish Species
Common name(s) — Scientific name — Harvest in tonnes (1000 kilograms)
1) Pacific mackerel (chub mackerel)— Scomber japonicus — 1,581,314 tonnes
2) Atlantic mackerel — Scomber scombrus — 910,697 tonnes
4) Chilean jack mackerel — Trachurus murphyi — 447,060 tonnes
5) Cape horse mackerel — Trachurus capensis — 356,795 tonnes
6) Indian mackerel — Rastrelliger kanagurta — 325,612 tonnes
7) Short mackerel — Rastrelliger brachysoma — 312,930 tonnes
8) Narrow-barred Spanish mackerel — Scomberomorus commerson — 256,469 tonnes
9) Atlantic horse mackerel — Trachurus trachurus — 205,807 tonnes
10 Japanese jack mackerel — Trachurus japonicus — 202,816 tonnes
[Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2012; Wikipedia]
Pacific whiting (Scientific name: Mercluccius productus) are a semi-pelagic schooling species of groundfish fish. Also known as hake or Pacific hake, they are a round fish that are silvery in color with black speckles on the back and black inside the mouth. They weigh approximately 0.6 kilograms (1.4 pounds) and are up to one meter (3 feet )in length. They grow fast and their lifespan is around 15 years. [Source: NOAA]
Pacific whiting feed on shrimp, krill, and pelagic schooling fish, such as eulachon and Pacific herring. As whiting grow larger, fish make up a greater part of their diet. Many fish-eating species, such as lingcod and Humboldt squid, prey on Pacific whiting. Sablefish, albacore, pollock, Pacific cod, rockfish, sharks, and marine mammals also feed on Pacific whiting.. Female whiting are able to reproduce when they reach 2 to 4 years old (33 to 40 centimeters, 13 to 16 inches long). Males mature by 3 years of age (28 centimeters, 11 inches long). Females release their eggs, which males then fertilize externally. Eggs hatch in 5 to 6 days.
Relatively little is known about spawning season and locations of the Pacific whiting. They are known to spawn in large numbers from January through March off south-central California, and were traditionally thought to migrate seasonally. However, recent studies have also shown that they may spawn as far north as Canada. In the spring, they travel nearshore and to the north to feed along the continental shelf and slope from northern California to Vancouver Island. In the summer, they form large schools along the continental shelf break. In years with warmer water temperatures, whiting tend to move farther north during the summer. Older whiting tend to migrate farther than younger fish.
Pacific whiting are found off the West Coast from Southern Baja California and the Gulf of California to the Gulf of Alaska. They school in midwater but have also been observed resting on the seafloor. They’re most common in water between 50 and 500 meters (164 and 1,640 feet) deep, but adults are found in water over 1,000 meters (3,300 feet deep) and 400 kilometers (250 miles) or more offshore.. Threats include predation by Humboldt squid) and overfishing.
Pacific Whiting Fishing
In 2020, the commercial landings in the U.S. of Pacific whiting totaled 546 million pounds and were valued at $36.8 million, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database. Mid-water trawls are primarily used to catch Pacific whiting. Mid-water trawling has minimal impact on habitat and low incidental catch of other species. Recreational fishermen do not target Pacific whiting but sometimes catch them incidentally while fishing for other groundfish and salmon. [Source: NOAA]
There are three stocks of Pacific whiting: 1) a migratory coastal stock, ranging from southern Baja California to Queen Charlotte Sound; 2) a central-south Puget Sound stock; and 3) a Strait of Georgia stock. While the latter stocks have declined substantially, the coastal stock remains large and healthy and is the most abundant commercial fish stock on the Pacific Coast. Pacific whiting are night-time predators that move up the water column to feed and then migrate back down during the day. [Source: NOAA]
There are above target population levels. The fishing rate is at recommended levels. Mid-water trawls used to harvest Pacific whiting have minimal impact on habitat. Bycatch is low because mid-water trawls target schools of whiting. According to the 2021 stock assessment, the coastal stock of Pacific whiting is not overfished, and is not subject to overfishing based on 2019 catch data. Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART. The Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia stocks are considered species of concern. There has been no directed commercial fishery for these stocks since 1991.
The coastal stock of Pacific whiting is managed through the bilateral Pacific Whiting Agreement between the United States and Canada. The agreement allocates a harvest quota to American and Canadian fisheries. The United States is allocated nearly 74 percent of the annual quota and Canada the remaining 26 percent. NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the Pacific whiting fishery on the West Coast, in U.S. federal waters (3 to 200 nautical miles offshore). The species are managed under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan: 1) Permits and limited entry to the fishery. 2) Certain seasons and areas are closed to fishing. 3) Gear restrictions and area closures help reduce bycatch and impacts on habitat. 4) Managers use annual harvest quotas to regulate the coastwide catch of Pacific whiting.
There are several sectors of the U.S. whiting fishery, and managers divide allowable catch among them. Sectors include: 1) Non-tribal catcher boats delivering to shore-based processing facilities; 2) Non-tribal catcher boats delivering to at-sea mothership processors; 3) Non-tribal vessels that both catch and process the catch at sea; and 4) Tribal harvesters.
The shore-based trawl fishery, which includes vessels targeting Pacific whiting, is managed under the trawl rationalization catch share program that includes: 1) Catch limits based on the population status of each fish stock and divided into shares that are allocated to individual fishermen or groups; 2) Provisions that allow fishermen to decide how and when to catch their share; 3) Total catch accounting and 100 percent observer coverage.
The Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative was established in 1997 by fishing companies owning trawlers in the catcher/processor sector of the fishery. They allocate their catch quota among cooperative members to allow them to use the quota more efficiently. The result is a less wasteful, more environmentally friendly fishery that produces a higher quality product.. Fishermen follow a number of regulations to reduce potential bycatch in the fishery. Mesh on the narrow, back end (codend) of their nets must be at least 3 inches to prevent bycatch of small fish. Regulations restrict where fishermen may harvest Pacific whiting to reduce bycatch of Chinook salmon. Each sector’s catch is restricted by limits on bycatch of Chinook salmon and depleted rockfish species. There is 100 percent observer monitoring on at-sea processors and catcher vessels.
Acadian redfish (Scientific name: Sebastes fasciatus) are orange to flame red, with paler underbellies. Also known as redfish, ocean perch, Labrador redfish, they have spiky fins and a flattened body that is longer than it is deep. They have large eyes and a large mouth lined with many small teeth and one continuous dorsal fin that runs from the nape of their neck to their caudal peduncle (where the body meets the tail) and a small tail fin. Young redfish are marked with patches of black and green pigment. They don’t develop their red pigment until after they move to the ocean bottom. [Source: NOAA]
Acadian redfish are 45 to 50 centimeters (18 to 20 inches) long Their lifespan is 50 years or more. Acadian redfish is the only fish in the rockfish-ocean perch (Sebastes) family in the Atlantic, compared to the more than 50 Sebastes species in the Pacific. The fish is called redfish in New England and Canada, but is not to be confused with redfish from the Gulf of Mexico (which is a drum).
Acadian redfish are slow-growing, long-lived fish. They mature at a late age (5 to 6 years) and have low reproductive rates. They mate in late autumn and early winter. Redfish give birth to live young (an unusual feature for fish), and fertilization, incubation, and hatching of eggs all occur within the female’s body. Eggs are not fertilized until spring and then incubate for 45 to 60 days. Females release their hatched larvae from late spring through July and August.
Females generally produce between 15,000 and 20,000 larvae per spawning cycle. Newly hatched redfish can swim well at birth and are soon able to forage for plankton (tiny floating plants and animals). Their survival rate is relatively high compared with that of egg-laying fish. Young redfish stay in the upper waters feeding on small crustaceans until they are about 2 inches long. In the fall, the young settle to the ocean bottom. Older redfish feed on larger invertebrates and small fish..
Acadian redfish are found in the Atlantic Ocean from the coast of Norway to Georges Bank over rocky, mud, or clay ocean bottoms. In the U.S. they can be found off New England and Mid-Atlantic Off New England they are most common in the deep waters of the Gulf of Maine to depths of 300 meters (975 feet). They tend to move off the bottom at night to feed and move closer to shore in the winter..
Acadian Redfish Fishing
In 2020, the commercial landings in the U.S. of Acadian redfish totaled approximately six million kilograms (13 million pounds) and were valued at approximately US$7.1 million, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database. NOAA Fisheries has been working with fishermen to increase opportunities to harvest redfish. Redfish are most commonly harvested using trawl nets, although they are sometimes also caught using gillnets, bottom longline, and rod and reel. Area closures and gear restrictions reduce habitat impacts from trawl nets. Fishermen follow management measures to designed to reduce interactions with marine mammals, including gear modifications, seasonal closures, and use of marine mammal deterrents. Acadian redfish are not a common target of anglers but may be encountered when targeting other groundfish species like cod and haddock. Regulations are limited to a minimum fish size in federal waters.[Source: NOAA]
Acadian redfish are harvested year-round but harvests are usually largest during spring and summer in the Gulf of Maine. There are above target population levels. The fishing rate is at recommended level. Area closures and gear restrictions protect habitat that are affected by some kinds of trawl gear. Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch. Population Status: According to the 2020 stock assessment, Acadian redfish is not overfished and not subject to overfishing. Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART. [Source: NOAA]
NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council manage the fishery in U.S. waters. Redfish, along with other groundfish in New England waters, are managed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, which includes: 1) Permitting requirements for commercial vessels; 2) Separate management measures for recreational vessels; 3) Time/Area Closures to protect spawning fish and habitat; 4) Minimum fish sizes to prevent harvest of juvenile fish; and 5) Annual catch limits, based on best available science. An optional sector (catch share) program can be used for cod and other groundfish species. The sector program allows fishermen to form harvesting cooperatives and work together to decide when, where, and how they harvest fish.
Not all fish are cold-blooded. In 2015, researchers with the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center revealed the opah, or moonfish, as the first fully warm-blooded fish. Although not as warm as mammals and birds, the opah circulates heated blood throughout its body, giving it a competitive advantage in the cold ocean depths from 47 to 400 meters (150 to 1,300 feet) below the surface. [Source: NOAA]
Opah are a valuable species for commercial and recreational fishermen. They are found in tropical and temperate waters around the world. Also known as moonfish, they live in deep open ocean waters but sometimes swims up near the surface of ocean water where sunlight penetrates. In the U.S. they can be found off New England and Mid-Atlantic, Hawaii, other Pacific Islands, the Southeast and the West Coast.
Abigail Tucker wrote in Smithsonian magazine:“The rotund, silvery opah looks less like a deep-sea predator than a Mylar balloon, with curved pectoral fins that flap like wings. Its chest muscles account for almost a fifth of its body mass and, cleverly marinated, can pass for beef. “The coolest part — well, not cool in terms of temperature, but the neatest part — is that the opah has a warm heart,” says Kenneth Goldman, an Alaska shark biologist. [Source: Abigail Tucker, Smithsonian magazine, September 2015]
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, NOAA
Text Sources: Animal Diversity Web (ADW) animaldiversity.org; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noaa.gov; Wikipedia, National Geographic, Live Science, BBC, Smithsonian, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Reuters, Associated Press, Lonely Planet Guides and various books and other publications.
Last Updated April 2023