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Yelloweye Rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus)

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


ESA Threatened - Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin DPS

Species Description

40 pounds (18 kg)
up to 3.5 feet (~1 m)
orange-red to orange-yellow and may have black on their fin tips, their eyes are bright yellow
up to 118 years, among the longest lived of rockfishes
invertebrates and small fishes, as adults
fertilization and embryo development is internal and female rockfish give birth to live larval young

Yelloweye rockfish are very large rockfish that reach up to 3.5 feet (~1 m) in length and about 40 pounds (18 kg) in weight. They are orange-red to orange-yellow in color and may have black on their fin tips. Their eyes are bright yellow. Adults usually have a light to white stripe on the lateral line; juveniles have 2 light stripes, one on the lateral line and a shorter one below 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 yelloweye rockfish ranges from 1.2 to 2.7 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 yelloweye rockfish reach maturity at around 40 to 50 cm total length and ages of 15 to 20 years. Yelloweye rockfish are among the longest lived of rockfishes, living up to 118 years old.


Juveniles and subadults tend to 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. Adults generally move into deeper water as they increase in size and age, but usually exhibit strong site fidelity to rocky bottoms and outcrops. Yelloweye rockfish occur in waters 80 to 1560 feet (25 to 475 m) deep, but are most commonly found between 300 to 590 feet (91 to 180 m).

Critical Habitat
We designated critical habitat for the Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin DPSs of yelloweye rockfish on November 13, 2014.


Yelloweye rockfish range from northern Baja California to the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, but are most common from central California northward to the Gulf of Alaska.

Population Trends

Recreational catch and effort data from the mid-1970s to mid-1990s suggests possible declines in abundance. While catch data are generally constant over time, the number of angler trips increased substantially, and there was a decline in the average number of rockfish caught per trip. 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, suggesting a low population abundance.


Conservation Efforts

Various state restrictions on fishing have been put in place over the years leading to the current ban on retention of yelloweye 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, we listed the Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin DPS as Threatened.

On April 9, 2007, we received a petition from Mr. Sam Wright (Olympia, Washington) to list "distinct population segments (DPSs)" of yelloweye rockfish, and 4 other rockfishes in Puget Sound, as endangered or threatened species under the ESA and to designate critical habitat. We 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, we 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. We 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, we 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, we 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).


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

Key Documents

(All documents are in PDF format.)
Title Federal Register Date
Yelloweye Rockfish and Bocaccio Recovery Plan and Appendices 10/13/2017
Final Rule Amending the Listing Description for the Yelloweye Rockfish DPS 82 FR 7711 01/23/2017
Designation of Critical Habitat for Puget Sound/ Georgia Basin DPSs of Yelloweye Rockfish, Canary Rockfish, and Bocaccio 79 FR 68041 11/13/2014
Proposed Designation of Critical Habitat  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
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
90-Day Finding on a Petition to List 5 Rockfish Species in the Puget Sound Under the ESA 72 FR 56986 10/05/2007
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: February 3, 2017