Yellowtail Rockfish

Common Name Yellowtail Rockfish
Market Name green rockfish, yellow seaperch
Scientific name Sebastes flavidus

Sourcing Summary

Size

2-5 lbs.

Whole yellowtail rockfish should have shiny, bright, and clear eyes and theYellowtail rockfish skin should be shiny and bright.  If the skin appears yellow, orange, or wrinkled that is an indication that it is stale. Rockfish fillets shouldn’t have signs of browning, graying or yellowing and the fillets hold together better with skin on. Gills should be bright pink or red (not brick red) and scales should be shining and clinging to the skin. Flesh on fillets should be moist and when pressed, bounce back to original form.

Based on average landings of yellowtail rockfish from 2011-2014 and using 2016 Seafood Watch ratings, the sustainability breakdown of yellowtail rockfish is as follows:

  • ~50% "Best Choice (green)" - from U.S. West Coast
  • ~50% "Good Alternative (yellow)" from British Columbia 
     

Download our U.S. West Coast yellowtail rockfish seafood guide.

Product Forms

Fresh/Frozen
Fresh
Product Forms
Fillets
H&G
Live
Whole
Fresh/Frozen
Frozen
Product Forms
Fillets
H&G
Whole

Fresh Seasonal Availability

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes

Culinary Composition

Sweet

Flavor

Medium

Texture

Low

Oil

Cooking Methods

Health/Nutrition

Nutrition facts

Serving Size: 100g
Amount per serving
Calories 94
Total Fat 1.6g
Cholesterol 35mg
Sodium 60mg
Carbohydrates 0g
Protein 18.8g
Omega-3 0.4g

Biology

Yellowtail rockfish grow more than two feet in length and can live up to 50 years. They mature between ages three to five. Fertilization of the eggs is internal, and the females give birth to live young. Females can host between 50,000 to 600,000 eggs depending on their size. Adult yellowtail rockfish feed on shellfish and small fish such as shrimp and anchovies. 

Unlike most rockfish, yellowtail rockfish are able to quickly release gas from their swim bladders as they ascend through the water column, preventing barotraumas that kills most other species that are caught in deep water. They get their name from their yellow tail and fins; however, after capture, their body will turn a light green. Though similar in appearance to olive rockfish, yellowtail rockfish lack spines on their head, which has a convex space between the eyes, and have eight soft rays on their anal fin.

Yellowtail rockfish populations are negatively affected by climate change because successful recruitment, growth, and survival rates correlate with strong upwelling and cooler water. Warmer water also influences food availability and increases in ocean acidity will result in a loss of shelled prey options that account for a large part of yellowtail rockfish diet.

Species Habitat

Yellowtail rockfish are found along the Pacific coast of the United States and Canada and range from San Diego, California to Kodiak Island, Alaska – with the center of yellowtail rockfish abundance occurring from Oregon to British Columbia. The species inhabits depths of 0-1801 feet (0-549 meters) and are usually caught by fishers at depths ranging from 361-659 feet (110 to 201 meters). Yellowtail rockfish are common along the middle shelf near the seafloor – though not on seafloor. Adults are considered semi-pelagic or pelagic and occur near steep slopes or above rocky reefs. They can also be found above mud with cobble, boulder, and rock ridges as well as sand bottoms. Adults can be found alone or in schools (sometimes comprising more than 1000 individual fish) in these areas. These schools may persist and stay in the same location for many years. 

Science & Management

Wild
Science

There has been little research done recently on yellowtail rockfish beyond population assessments and studies. Past projects undertaken include the Alaska Department of Fish and Game whom studied the initial behavior of displaced yellowtail rockfish to test their response when they are first released after capture; and, the National Marine Fisheries Service whom conducted both field and laboratory studies on the reproductive performance of yellowtail rockfish in order to characterize the reproduction of the northern stocks. 

Management

NOAA Fisheries and Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) manage the US West Coast yellowtail rockfish fishery under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP). In addition to yellowtail rockfish, the FMP covers over 90 different species along the US West Coast including other rockfish and flatfish. Implemented in 1982, the FMP has been amended 28 times to account for changes in the fishery, reauthorizations of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and for internal PFMC procedures. A combination of fishing pressures and natural factors significantly reduced rockfish abundance in the 1980s and 1990s and the US Pacific groundfish fishery was on the verge of collapse in 2000 – with the federal government formally declaring it an economic disaster in early 2000. Since 2002, management measures have been successful in allowing overfished stocks to rebuild and while still vulnerable to fishing pressure, the US West Coast yellowtail rockfish population is now considered to be healthy.

Yellowtail rockfish are divided along the US West Coast into two stocks – a northern and a southern stock with the boundary between the two stocks being 40°30 ́N. The US commercial groundfish fishery is comprised of three components:  Limited Entry (LE), Open Access (OA), and Nearshore (NS). The LE and OA sectors are managed by the PFMC while the NS sector is jointly managed by the PFMC and the states of Oregon and California respectfully. There is no NS fishery for yellowtail rockfish or other groundfish in the state-managed waters off of Washington. 

Current management of US West Coast yellowtail rockfish is considered strong in part due to:

  • Catch limits
  • Gear restrictions 
  • Spatial closures to avoid overfished species and sensitive habitat
  • Bycatch reduction measures


Beginning in 2011, LE trawl permit holders were allowed to participate in a catch share program. Participants in the program receive an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) of the total catch of the 29 commercial species/species complexes along the US West Coast. Fishers participating in the program can fish their quota at anytime during the season and can use non-trawl gear to catch their quota shares. Whereas non-IFQ fisheries have varying levels of at-sea observer coverage, the catch share program requires 100 percent at-sea and dockside monitoring. 

As the majority of yellowtail rockfish abundance occurs between Oregon and British Columbia, there is no direct fishery in Alaska for yellowtail rockfish and the species is not considered to be of significant commercial interest in the region. 

Yellowtail rockfish are managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in Canada. The species is managed as two areas along the Canadian coast – a coastal stock defined from central Vancouver Island northwards and a boundary stock that includes waters off southern Vancouver Island. There is no known biological basis for a stock boundary in Canada and this division was created for management purposes. Yellowtail rockfish are considered an important component of the multi-species and multi-gear groundfish fishery in British Columbia and currently have the second largest single species total allowable catch (TAC) among rockfish species along Pacific Canada. Among management measures the DFO establishes are:

  • Annual quotas (98.91 percent allocated to the trawl sector, 1.09 percent allocated to hook and line)
  • Stock assessments 
  • Bycatch reduction measures to protect corals and sponges
  • 100 percent at-sea and dockside monitoring
Harvest Methods

Conservation Criteria - Wild

Impact on Stock

Yellowtail rockfish are a fairly long-lived rockfish found in midwater and rocky ocean bottoms from Southern California to Unalaska Island, Alaska. Yellowtail rockfish have a high inherent vulnerability to fishing pressure. Recent stock assessments from the U.S. West Coast yellowtail rockfish populations in good shape, while the British Columbia stocks fair slightly worse.

Habitat impacts ( Wild)

Yellowtail rockfish are targeted using a variety of gears such as longline, pot, hook and line, midwater, and bottom trawl. Most yellowtail rockfish are caught using bottom trawl, which can do significant damage to the seafloor. However, spatial restrictions on bottom trawl gear in the fisheries targeting yellowtail rockfish help reduce the impact. 

Bycatch

Because yellowtail rockfish are caught in a multi-species groundfish fishery, the distinction between targeted and bycatch species is not always clear. What is usually considered as bycatch doesn't necessarily apply for these fisheries, but rather the targeting of specific species within the groundfish complex and avoiding others is how bycatch is evaluated. Bycatch is managed on the U.S. West Coast through a combination of gear and spatial restrictions and is considered mostly effective and varies by specific gears. Bycatch is a major concern in British Columbia primarily due to the uncertainty of stock statuses of several other rockfish species as well as some shark species. 

Management effectiveness

In the U.S., yellowtail rockfish are managed with other non-hake groundfish by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. Management measures include harvest control rules, gear restrictions, catch limits, and scientific monitoring. While U.S. management of yellowtail rockfish is considered strong and effective, management in British Columbia is considered only moderately effective because of the lack of harvest control rules and stock reference points. 

Conservation Criteria - Farmed

Origin Method Ratings
All Other Origins All Other Fishing Methods  
Canada - British Columbia Bottom Trawl  
Canada - British Columbia Jig  
Canada - British Columbia Longline  
Canada - British Columbia Troll  
Canada - British Columbia Midwater Trawl  
USA - West Coast Bottom Trawl    
USA - West Coast Midwater Trawl    
USA - West Coast Bottom Longline    
Name Country State / Province
Da Yang Seafood, Inc. United States Oregon
Harbor Pride Seafood United States California
Kelly's Fresh Fish United States Washington
Tradex Foods Inc. Canada British Columbia