2015 Assessment of the Pacific Ocean Perch Stock in the Gulf of Alaska
Pacific ocean perch (Sebastes alutus, POP) has a wide distribution in the North Pacific from southern California around the Pacific rim to northern Honshu Is., Japan, including the Bering Sea. The species appears to be most abundant in northern British Columbia, the Gulf of Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands (Allen and Smith 1988). Adults are found primarily offshore on the outer continental shelf and the upper continental slope in depths of 150-420 m. Seasonal differences in depth distribution have been noted by many investigators. In the summer, adults inhabit shallower depths, especially those between 150 and 300 m. In the fall, the fish apparently migrate farther offshore to depths of ~300-420 m. They reside in these deeper depths until about May, when they return to their shallower summer distribution (Love et al. 2002). This seasonal pattern is probably related to summer feeding and winter spawning. Although small numbers of Pacific ocean perch are dispersed throughout their preferred depth range on the continental shelf and slope, most of the population occurs in patchy, localized aggregations (Hanselman et al. 2001). Pacific ocean perch are generally considered to be semi-demersal but there can at times be a significant pelagic component to their distribution. Pacific ocean perch often move off-bottom during the day to feed, apparently following diel euphausiid migrations (Brodeur 2001). Commercial fishing data in the GOA
since 1995 show that pelagic trawls fished off-bottom have accounted for as much as 31% of the annual harvest of this species.
There is much uncertainty about the life history of Pacific ocean perch, although generally more is known than for other rockfish species (Kendall and Lenarz 1986). The species appears to be viviparous (the eggs develop internally and receive at least some nourishment from the mother), with internal fertilization and the release of live young. Insemination occurs in the fall, and sperm are retained within the female until fertilization takes place ~2 months later. The eggs hatch internally, and parturition (release of larvae)
occurs in April-May. Information on early life history is very sparse, especially for the first year of life. Pacific ocean perch larvae are thought to be pelagic and drift with the current, and oceanic conditions may sometimes cause advection to suboptimal areas (Ainley et al. 1993) resulting in high recruitment variability. However, larval studies of rockfish have been hindered by difficulties in species identification since many larval rockfish species share the same morphological characteristics (Kendall 2000). Genetic techniques using allozymes (Seeb and Kendall 1991) and mitochondrial DNA (Li 2004) are capable of identifying larvae and juveniles to species, but are expensive and time-consuming. Post-larval and early young-of-the-year Pacific ocean perch have been positively identified in offshore, surface waters of the GOA (Gharrett et al. 2002), which suggests this may be the preferred habitat of this life stage. Transformation to a demersal existence may take place within the first year (Carlson and Haight 1976). Small juveniles probably reside inshore in very rocky, high relief areas, and by age 3 begin to migrate to deeper offshore waters of the continental shelf (Carlson and Straty 1981). Rooper et al. (2012) found that potential growth of POP in the nursery area was correlated to recruitment indicating this is a very important life stage for this species. As they grow, they continue to migrate deeper, eventually reaching the continental slope where they attain adulthood. Adult and juvenile populations are believed to be spatially separated (Carlson and Straty, 1981; Rooper et al., 2007).