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Canary Rockfish (Sebastes pinniger)

Status | Taxonomy | Species Description | Habitat | Distribution |
Population Trends | Threats | Conservation Efforts | Regulatory Overview |
Key Documents | More Info

  canary rockfish
Canary Rockfish
(Sebastes pinniger)
Photo: NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center



ESA Threatened - Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin DPS

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Sebastidae
Genus: Sebastes
Species: pinniger

Species Description

Canary rockfish are large rockfish that reach up to 2.5 feet (77 cm) in length and 10 pounds (4 kg) in weight. Adults have bright yellow to orange mottling over gray, 3 orange stripes across the head, and orange fins. Animals less than 14 inches long have dark markings on the posterior part of the spiny dorsal fin and gray along the lateral line.

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 canary rockfish ranges from 260,000 to 1.9 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 canary rockfish are mature at 14 inches (36 cm) total length (about 5 to 6 years of age). Canary rockfish can live to be 75 years old.

Canary rockfish primarily inhabit waters 160 to 820 feet (50 to 250 m) deep but may be found to 1400 feet (425 m). Juveniles and subadults tend to be more common than adults in shallow water and are associated with rocky reefs, kelp canopies, and artificial structures, such as piers and oil platforms. Adults generally move into deeper water as they increase in size and age but usually exhibit strong site fidelity to rocky bottoms and outcrops where they hover in loose groups just above the bottom.

Critical Habitat
Critical habitat was designated for yelloweye rockfish, canary rockfish, and bocaccio in the Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin in November 2014. NMFS proposed designation of critical habitat in August 2013. Download GIS critical habitat data for Puget Sound rockfish [zip].

Canary rockfish range between Punta Colnett, Baja California, and the Western Gulf of Alaska. Within this range, canary rockfish are most common off the coast of central Oregon.

Population Trends
Recreational catch and effort data spanning 12 years from the mid-1970s to mid-1990s suggests possible declines in abundance. While catch data are generally constant over this time period, the number of angler trips increased substantially, and the average number of canary 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 currently caught by fishermen, suggesting a low population abundance. Canary rockfish used to be one of the three principal species caught in Puget Sound in the 1960s.

Canary rockfish 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.

Conservation Efforts
Various state restrictions on fishing have been put in place over the years, including banning retention of canary rockfish in Washington in 2003. Because this species is slow growing, late to mature, and long-lived, recovery from these threats will take many years, even if the threats are no longer affecting the species.

Regulatory Overview
In April 2010, NMFS listed the Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin DPS as Threatened.

On April 9, 2007, NMFS received a petition from Mr. Sam Wright (Olympia, Washington) to list "distinct population segments (DPSs)" of canary rockfish, 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).

Key Documents
(All documents are in PDF format.)

Title Federal Register Date
Final Critical Habitat Designation for Yelloweye Rockfish, Canary Rockfish, and Bocaccio of the Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin 79 FR 68041 11/13/2014

Proposed Critical Habitat Designation for Yelloweye Rockfish, Canary Rockfish, and Bocaccio of the Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin

78 FR 47635 08/06/2013
Status Review of 5 Rockfish Species in Puget Sound, WA   12/2010
Final Rule to List the Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin DPS as Threatened Under the ESA 75 FR 22276 04/28/2010
Proposed Rule to List the Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin DPS as Threatened 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

More Information

Updated: November 17, 2014

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