Rockfish

Banner Photo Credit and Description: Eiko Jones;  Juvenile Yellowtail Rockfish, Sebastes flavidus, Browning Pass


Photo Credit: Lee Newman

Photo Credit: Lee Newman

Copper Rockfish 

Sebastes caurinus

Depth: 0-310 m · Common range: shallow subtidal-70 m · SARA Status: Not listed · COSEWIC Status: Not assessed

Appearance: Copper to yellow colouration washed with pink and yellow blotches. Whitish undersides with a well-defined horizontal stripe. A lateral line extends from the rear of the eye. All fins are white or unmarked. Juveniles have orange to orange-brown colouration with three to four orange to orange-brown bars on their backs.

Habitat Use and Behaviour: Adults inhabit rocky areas with a preference for complex structures, such as scattered and piled boulders. They can be found on offshore reefs, in shallow protected bays, and clustered around kelp, rocks, pilings and jetties. They tend to be non-schooling and benthic, often resting on their fins on the bottom. They forage near the bottom but can swim into mid-water to catch certain forage fish prey (herring, sand lance, anchovy or shiner perch). They lurk in shadows and crevices, especially in the winter, and tend to have relatively small home ranges on high relief and complex boulder piles– an adult copper was observed on the same reef for five years. Juveniles are born in the spring, settle in shallow nearshore structures (eelgrass, kelp, piled boulders and bedrock), prefer shallow weedy bays with benthic or drifting macrophytes and huddle around wharves. The juvenile young-of-year (YOY) recruit (settle) from April-July and within half a year shift to deeper waters. Coppers are opportunistic feeders on benthic, epibenthic and pelagic prey: crustaceans, fishes, squids, octopuses. Their dominant predators are salmon, lingcod, sea lions, and rhinoceros auklets.

Critical Habitat Design and Management Considerations: Provide complex structures that facilitate kelp growth in shallow nearshore environments and include various sized holes for hiding. Ensure and monitor successful macrophyte (eelgrass and kelp) colonization and proliferation. Juvenile coppers demonstrated ontogenic shifts in various habitats characterized by abundant bull kelp and perennial macrophytes. When kelp decreases, habitat availability and prey densities decreased.

Adult and Juvenile Copper Rockfish Habitat Use

Adult and Juvenile Copper Rockfish Habitat Use


Quillback Rockfish

Sebastes maliger

Depth: 1.5-275 m · Common range: 10-130 m ·  SARA Status: Not listed · COSEWIC Status: Threatened

Appearance: Brown and yellow colouration flecked with brown. High spinous dorsal fin with deep notches between spines and large blotches of white to yellow to orange on or below them. No white stripe on side. Pale area between eye and pectoral fin. Young juveniles resemble Copper Rockfish of the same age except that the first dorsal fin is taller, and the vertical bars are on the fin more than on the upper body. Bars are more on the body in the youngest Coppers. Older juvenile Quillbacks develop characteristic brown freckles, then come to resemble miniature adults with very dark (near black) pigmentation on the posterior body.  Large, elderly Quillbacks can become very pale with brown freckles over the entire body.

Habitat Use and Behaviour: Adults inhabit offshore reefs with large boulders and numerous recesses, in or near kelp areas, and unconsolidated coarse sediments bordering rocky reefs. They lurk around protection and are frequently found resting on their fins on benthic boulder piles. They cluster in higher densities at larger areas of piled boulders in deeper regions. They are often solitary, or form small schools around boulder piles with numerous shaded or protected recesses. They prefer high relief and vertical walls. Their home ranges are relatively small on high relief and complex boulder piles, and larger  over low or less productive reefs. Juveniles seek shelter in complex nearshore environments with heavy algal coverage, such as eelgrass and kelp, cobble clusters or caverns, and cloud sponges. Quillbacks are opportunistic feeders on crustaceans and fishes: juvenile lingcod, painted greenling eggs, snails, pelagic tunicates, shrimp, and crabs. Their dominant predators are lingcod, yelloweye rockfish, Steller sea lions and orcas.

Critical Habitat Design and Management Considerations: Provide complex boulder piles with plenty of crevices in subtidal environments. Ensure macrophytes are abundant both nearshore and in deeper water. Juvenile coppers demonstrated ontogenic shifts in various habitats characterized by abundant bull kelp and perennial macrophytes. When kelp decreases, habitat availability and prey densities decreases.

Adult and Juvenile Quillback Rockfish Habitat Use

Adult and Juvenile Quillback Rockfish Habitat Use


Yellowtail Rockfish

Sebastes flavidus

Depth: 0-549 m · Common range: 90-180 m · SARA Status: Not listed · COSEWIC Status: Not assessed

Appearance: Dark brown to green-brown to grey colouration on back. Dark speckling on sides. Pale below lateral line. Light-green to yellow-green to yellow fins. Row of pale spots below dorsal fin. Rear edge of anal fin is straight and vertical. Space between eyes convex with weak or absent spines. Prominent knob on end of the chin. Juveniles are finely blotched with reddish brown speckles. Slender body. Black spot on rear first dorsal fin of early juveniles and sub-adults. Row of several rectangular pale spots below dorsal fin.

Habitat Use and Behaviour: Adults are pelagic and inhabit open water, especially over banks, reefs, and rapidly descending coastlines. They congregate in compact schools, often with other rockfishes, above rocky reefs and orient into the prevailing current. They prefer areas of high relief (rock ridges and boulder fields), lurk near recesses and crevices, and commonly rest on the bottom at night. They release their larvae in deep offshore waters in March. Juveniles inhabit shallow nearshore waters, swarming around eelgrass, algae, floats and pilings. They remain nearshore until the fall, then gradually move deeper. Young adults inhabiting inland seas and inlets will migrate to the outer continental shelf as they reach sexual maturity. Yellowtails exhibit vertical movement in the water column, and will swim several kilometres to return to their home reefs. They eat benthic and midwater prey: euphasids, zooplankton, benthic shrimps and fishes. Their dominant predators are salmon, cormorants, pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, and lingcod.

Critical Habitat Design and Management Considerations: They are a deep-water species, therefore reef design considerations are minimal since monitoring is impractical at high depths. Ensure adequate refuge for juvenile recruitment and survival.

Adult and Juvenile Yellowtail Rockfish Habitat Use

Adult and Juvenile Yellowtail Rockfish Habitat Use


Photo Credit: Eiko Jones

Photo Credit: Eiko Jones

Black Rockfish

Sebastes melanops

Depth: 0-365 m · Common range: shallow – 73 m · SARA Status: Not listed · COSEWIC Status: Not assessed

Appearance:

Silvery to blueish grey colouration. Mottled with black to blue-black blotches on back. Pale to whitish blotches below dorsal fin. Pale to whitish area below lateral line occasionally forms a poorly defined broad stripe. Upper lip extends to or past rear of eye. Convex forehead profile. Rear edge of anal fin is slightly rounded and slanted forward. Closest relative is Yellowtail – Blacks are distinguished by a lack of yellow pigment, more compact form and more rounded fin tips. Young Blacks have the same black spot on the rear of their first dorsal fins as Yellowtails.

Habitat Use and Behaviour: Adults are pelagic and inhabit open water, especially over deep banks. They also gather in kelp forests and along rocky boulder strewn bottoms. They gather in huge schools, often with other rockfishes, over rocky substrates with crevices, and are aggressive feeders. They prefer areas of high relief, and commonly rest on the bottom at night. In the winter they exhibit more benthic behaviour. In March to September juveniles recruit to shallow intertidal rocky areas, with a preference for tide pools, kelp beds, eelgrass, bottom drift algae, and wharves or pilings. Black rockfish feed on benthic and midwater prey: zooplankton, crustaceans, and fishes. Their dominant predators are salmon, lingcod, bald eagles, pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, Steller sea lions and minks.

Critical Habitat Design and Management Considerations: Kelp beds are very important to this species. You’ll often find them inhabiting in just 4.5 metres of water where they have sufficient plant coverage. In addition, very high relief rocky reefs with depths ranging from shallow to over 20 metres can be adopted as permanent homes in inland seas where this species has become depleted near cities.  They are often superabundant on outer coasts. Transplant has been successful to the outer limit of Vancouver Harbour.

Adult and Juvenile Black Rockfish Habitat Use

Adult and Juvenile Black Rockfish Habitat Use


Vermilion Rockfish

Sebastes miniatus

Depth: 12-275 m · Common range: 50-150 m · SARA Status: Not listed · COSEWIC Status: Not assessed

Appearance: Red to orange colouration. Tends to be more reddish brown to orange in shallower water, changing to brilliant reds with depth. Thin pale stripe runs along the lateral line from mid-body to tail. Downward sloping band from eye toward pectoral fin with a narrow band below. Soft dorsal, pectoral, anal, and tail fins usually have dark margins. Rounded ventral and anal fins. Early juveniles are covered in small black spots, and have a black spot on the rear of their spinous first dorsal fin, a black inner half soft dorsal and anal fin, and a clear tail.

Habitat Use and Behaviour: Adults inhabit rocky reefs usually deeper than 20 metres. They target high-relief structures, such as boulder fields or rock ridges with plentiful caves, crevices, and sheltering spots. They form small schools, or are found solo or in pairs. Juveniles and adults school in the water column or near the bottom. Juveniles recruit from August to April in nearshore habitats to depths of 40 metres. They prefer low relief structures, such as sand dollar beds, eelgrass, cobble, and sandy areas outside of kelp forests. Vermilions feed on crustaceans, amphipods, fishes, and octopuses. Their dominant predators are California and Stellar sea lions, and lingcod.

Critical Habitat Design and Management Considerations: They are shy, therefore monitoring efforts using diving may not yield sufficient information. Vermilions range deeper as they grow older, so inshore mitigation efforts would only affect juvenile to sub-adult stages. Ensure adequate low profile structure provision.

Adult and Juvenile Vermilion Rockfish Habitat Use

Adult and Juvenile Vermilion Rockfish Habitat Use


Photo Credit: Eiko Jones

Photo Credit: Eiko Jones

Yelloweye Rockfish

Sebastes ruberrimus

Depth: 15-549 m · Common range: 40-180 m · SARA Status: Special Concern · COSEWIC Status: Special Concern

Appearance: Red to orange-yellow colouration. Bright yellow iris. Prominent rough, strong and high parallel ridges running behind each eye. Juveniles are red, have one or several bold white lateral stripes that fade with age, but which quickly reappear to signal submissiveness to bigger Yelloweyes. Dorsal fins of juveniles are edged in white, and have a white bar at the tail base.

Habitat Use and Behaviour: Adults inhabit rocky offshore reefs and cliff faces. Older and larger individuals are found at increasing depths, well beyond safe diving limits. They can be solitary but will aggregate where they can hide in deep crevices and caves. Mostly benthic, they venture a few metres above the seafloor to forage. Juveniles inhabit shallower regions of high relief, such as rocky reefs or cliff faces. Yelloweyes eat crabs, shrimps, fishes, squids, and octopuses. Their dominant predators are salmon, Yelloweyes, Steller sea lions, sperm whales, and orcas.

Critical habitat design and management considerations: They are a slow growing long-lived species that is susceptible to overfishing and exploitation. Ensure adequate provision of nursery structures for juveniles.

Adult and Juvenile Yelloweye Rockfish Habitat Use

Adult and Juvenile Yelloweye Rockfish Habitat Use


Photo Credit: Kent Forsen

Photo Credit: Kent Forsen

Tiger Rockfish

Sebastes nigrocinctus

Depth: 10-298 m · Common range: 30-300 m · SARA Status: Not listed · COSEWIC Status: Not assessed

Appearance: Pink to coral to red colouration with five dark red to black body bars. No bars on tail base. Two dark bands angle from eye toward pectoral fin. Short band extends from eye toward back. Pink to red pectoral, ventral and anal fins.

Habitat Use and Behaviour: Adults inhabit rocky reefs with numerous caves, crevices, and protective recesses where they lurk and hide. They are generally solitary and territorial, and are found on reefs at depths greater than 10 metres. They prefer high-relief structures. Juveniles recruit from June to August, and prefer kelp, eelgrass, drifting seaweeds, shallow rock piles, and floats. Tiger rockfish eat benthic oriented prey: crabs, hermit crabs, shrimps, brittle stars and hydroids.

Critical Habitat Design and Management Considerations: They are quite shy; therefore, they may be difficult to incorporate into monitoring plans. Ensure adequate provision of nursery structure for juveniles, and complex high-relief reef structures.

Adult and Juvenile Tiger Rockfish Habitat Use

Adult and Juvenile Tiger Rockfish Habitat Use