Canary Rockfish | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Canary Rockfish

Sebastes pinniger

Also known as

Red snapper, fantail, canary, orange rockfish, rock cod

Distribution

Northeastern Pacific from the Gulf of Alaska, USA to Baja California, Mexico

Ecosystem/Habitat

Rocky bottoms with complex structures

Feeding Habits

Active predator

Conservation Status

Threatened

Taxonomy

Order Scorpaeniformes (scorpionfishes & flatheads); Family Sebastidae (rockfishes, rockcods & thorny

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Canary rockfish are one of the top three most commonly harvested rockfish, caught in both commercial and sport fisheries. They have been harvested for decades, which has unfortunately greatly reduced their population size across the coast of British Columbia. They are also at risk from fishing pressures due to high levels of post-release mortality, dying after being caught and released by fishers, from both recreational fisheries and as incidental catch in commercial fisheries. This is due to “barotrauma,” a phenomenon in which the eyes and other organs of deepwater fishes greatly expand and can erupt, caused by the sudden change in pressure as they are brought from high pressure, deepwater habitats, to low-pressures at the surface of the ocean.

Commercial trawl fisheries for Canary rockfish began in the early 1940s, with the U.S. trawl fishery moving north into Canadian waters in the 1950s and 1960s. There were also large-scale foreign trawl fisheries by Soviet vessels in the 1960s and Japanese vessels in the 1970s, but little data exists from these fisheries. Foreign fishing was all but eliminated by 1977 following the introduction of the Canadian Extended Jurisdiction of 200 nautical miles. 

Management measures put in place in 1994 and 1995, including 100 per cent at-sea observer coverage and 100 per cent dockside monitoring of the commercial groundfish fleet in British Columbia, helped gather important data about the Canary rockfish population size. This information is critical because rockfish have high rates of mortality from any fishery due to barotrauma caused by the sudden change in pressure as they are brought to the surface. They are caught in small numbers today by the groundfish trawl fishery in British Columbia, and are also caught during salmon trolling as well as in recreational and First Nations’ fisheries.

Canary rockfish are not recommended as a sustainable seafood option by most certifications.