Bocaccio (Sebastes paucispinis)
Bocaccio video screenshot
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Did You Know?
· Spines of bocaccio can be mildly poisonous and cause minor pain.
Bocaccio are large Pacific coast rockfish that reach up to 3 feet (1 m) in length. They have a distinctively long jaw extending to at least the eye socket. Their body ranges in color from olive to burnt orange or brown as adults. Young bocaccio are light bronze in color and have small brown spots on their sides.
Rockfishes are unusual among the bony fishes in that fertilization and embryo development is internal, and female rockfish give birth to live larval young. Larvae are found in surface waters, and may be distributed over a wide area extending several hundred miles offshore. "Fecundity" in female bocaccio ranges from 20,000 to over 2 million eggs, considerably more than many other rockfish species. Larvae and small juvenile rockfish may remain in open waters for several months, being passively dispersed by ocean currents.
Larval rockfish feed on diatoms, dinoflagellates, tintinnids, and cladocerans, and juveniles consume copepods and euphausiids of all life stages. Adults eat demersal invertebrates and small fishes, including other species of rockfish, associated with kelp beds, rocky reefs, pinnacles, and sharp dropoffs. Approximately 50 percent of adult bocaccio mature in 4 to 6 years. Bocaccio are difficult to age but are suspected to live as long as 50 years.
Bocaccio are most common between 160 and 820 feet (50-250 m) depth, but may be found as deep as 1,560 feet (475m). Adults generally move into deeper water as they increase in size and age but usually exhibit strong site fidelity to rocky bottoms and outcrops. Juveniles and subadults may be more common than adults in shallower water, and are associated with rocky reefs, kelp canopies, and artificial structures, such as piers and oil platforms.
Bocaccio range from Punta Blanca, Baja California, to the Gulf of Alaska off Krozoff and Kodiak Islands. They are most common between Oregon and northern Baja California. In Puget Sound, most bocaccio are found south of Tacoma Narrows.
Recreational catch and effort data spanning 12 years from the mid-1970s to mid-1990s suggests possible declines in abundance in Washington. Additional data over this period show the number of angler trips increased substantially and the average number of rockfish caught per trip declined. Taken together, these data suggest declines in the population over time. Currently there are no survey data being taken for this species, but few of these fish are caught by fishermen and none have been caught by Washington state biological surveys in 20 years, suggesting a very low population abundance. They are thought to be at an abundance that is less than 10% of their unfished abundance.
A 2005 stock assessment by NOAA Fisheries suggests bocaccio there have higher populations than was thought to be the case.
Bocaccio are fished directly and are often caught as bycatch in other fisheries, including those for salmon. Adverse environmental factors led to recruitment failures in the early- to mid-1990s.
Various state restrictions on fishing have been put in place over the years. Current regulations in the state of Washington, where the species is most at risk, limit the daily rockfish catch to three rockfish total (of any species). Because this species is so slow-growing, late to mature, and long-lived, recovery from the above threats will take many years, even if the threats are no longer affecting the species.
On April 9, 2007, NMFS received a petition from Mr. Sam Wright (Olympia, Washington) to list "distinct population segments (DPSs)" of bocaccio, and 4 other rockfishes in Puget Sound, as endangered or threatened species under the ESA and to designate critical habitat. NMFS found that this petition also did not present substantial scientific or commercial information to suggest that the petitioned actions may be warranted (72 FR 56986; October 5, 2007). On October 29, 2007, NMFS received a letter from Mr. Wright presenting information that was not included in the April 2007 petition, and requesting reconsideration of the decision not to initiate a review of the species' status. NMFS considered the supplemental information as a new petition and concluded that there was enough information in this new petition to warrant conducting status reviews of these rockfishes. The status review was initiated on March 17, 2008 (73 FR 14195).
In February 1999, NMFS received a petition from Mr. Sam Wright of Olympia, Washington to list 18 species of marine fishes in Puget Sound, including this species, under the ESA. On June 21, 1999, NMFS found that there was insufficient information concerning stock structure, status, and trends for this species to suggest that listing this species may be warranted (64 FR 33037).
|Status Review of 5 Rockfish Species in Puget Sound, WA||12/2010|
|Final Rule to List the Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin DPS as Endangered Under the ESA||75 FR 22276||04/28/2010|
|Proposed Rule to List the Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin DPS as Endangered Under the ESA||74 FR 18516||04/23/2009|
|2008: 90-Day Finding on a Petition to List 5 Rockfish Species in the Puget Sound Under the Endangered Species Act||73 FR 14195||03/17/2008|
|2007: 90-Day Finding on a Petition to List 5 Rockfish Species in the Puget Sound Under the ESA||72 FR 56986||10/05/2007|
|1999: 90-Day Finding on a Petition to List 18 Fishes in the Puget Sound Under the ESA||64 FR 33037||06/21/1999|
|Species of Concern Fact Sheet: Detailed||n/a||05/18/2009|
- NMFS Bocaccio Video from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center
- Guide to Rockfishes (Scorpaenidae) of the Genera Sebastes, Sebastolobus, and Adelosebastes of the Northeast Pacific Ocean, 2nd Edition (NOAA Tech Memo NMFS-AFSC-117)
Updated: January 4, 2012