Redfish (Acadian & Deepwater) | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Redfish (Acadian & Deepwater)

Sebastes fasciatus (Acadian) & Sebastes mentella (Deepwater)

Also known as

Atlantic redfish, redfish, rosefish, beaked redfish, ocean perch

Distribution

Northern Atlantic

Ecosystem/Habitat

Rocky bottoms

Feeding Habits

Active predator

Conservation Status

Special concern/threatened/Endangered

Taxonomy

Order Scorpaeniformes (scorpionfishes & flatheads); Family Sebastidae

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Acadian and Deepwater redfish are so similar in appearance that they are frequently lumped together as one species, particularly in the commercial fishery. There are also accounts of breeding across species, producing hybridized redfish. Redfish are called “ocean perch,” although they are not perch at all. This name arose during the 1930s when there was a shortage in freshwater yellow perch due to overfishing, at which time fish harvesters began substituting red fish fillets, similar in colour and texture and half the price. 

Both Acadian and Deepwater redfish are a short-bodied fish that range from a bright orange colour to bright red. They have a large head compared to the rest of their body, a wide gaping mouth and large eyes. They average about 50 centimetres in length but they can grow larger.

Redfish spawn in the fall and winter, typically from September to December, producing young through “ovoviviparous” reproduction. This means that eggs are fertilized inside the female, where they grow and hatch. Females release the larvae in late spring and early summer. The larvae drift along currents with other plankton, before becoming juveniles and settling on the seafloor. Redfish are very slow-growing, reaching sexual maturity at 8 to12 years, and are long-lived, with an average life span of 45 to 65 years. They eat a variety of small crustaceans, cephalopods and small fish that can be found along the ocean floor.

The redfish fishery began as an incidental fishery, meaning it was not targeted directly. Redfish were caught and sold as bycatch (incidental catch) in halibut, haddock and cod fisheries. They are now targeted in certain regions by both bottom trawl and bottom longline fisheries, but can also be caught and sold as bycaught fish in certain fisheries. The heaviest period of fishing for redfish occurred in the 1990s as a result of the collapse of other groundfish populations. 

Redfish are under assessment, as further data is needed to determine which populations and methods of catch could be a sustainable seafood option. 

In 2010, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessed all four Canadian redfish populations as at risk: one population of Acadian redfish as Special Concern, one population of Acadian redfish and one population of Deepwater redfish as Threatened and one population of Deepwater redfish as Endangered. Each of these populations have had population declines of around 98 per cent since the late 1970s to early 1980s. Unfortunately, none of the populations have been listed under the Species At Risk Act (SARA), in spite of these significant declines in abundance. Under the Precautionary Approach Framework by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, two populations of redfish in Canada have been assessed as Critical, two populations have been assessed as Healthy, and one population has been assessed as Unknown.

Oceana Canada is working to protect Canada’s oceans for species like the redfish. Find out more about our campaigns and join us in helping to bring abundance back to the ocean.

  • DFO. (2010a). Aquatic species – Details for Redfish. Retrieved from: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/species-especes/aquatic-aquatique/redfish-sebaste-eng.htm
  • COSEWIC. (2010). COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Deepwater Redfish/Acadian Redfish complex Sebastes mentella and Sebastes fasciatus, in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. X + 80pp. Retrieved from: http://sararegistry.gc.ca/virtual_sara/files/cosewic/sr_Deepwater%20and%20Acadian%20Redfish_0810_e.pdf
  • NOAA FishWatch. (n.d.). Acadian redfish; Sebastes fasciatus. Retrieved from: http://www.fishwatch.gov/profiles/acadian-redfish 
  • DFO. (2010b). Assessment of Redfish stocks (Sebastes fasciatus and S. mentella) in units 1 and 2 in 2009. Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Advis. Rep. 2010/037. Retrieved from: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/publications/sar-as/2010/2010_037_e.pdf 
  • DFO. (2011). Recovery potential assessment of redfish (Sebastes mentella and S. fasciatus) in the northwest Atlantic. Cam. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Advis. Rep. 2011/044. Retrieved from: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/Publications/SAR-AS/2011/2011_044-eng.pdf