2016 Assessment of the Yellowfin Sole Stock in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
The yellowfin sole (Limanda aspera) is one of the most abundant flatfish species in the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) and currently is the target of the largest flatfish fishery in the world. They inhabit the EBS shelf and are considered one stock. Abundance in the Aleutian Islands region is negligible.
Yellowfin sole are distributed in North American waters from off British Columbia, Canada, (approx. lat. 49o N) to the Chukchi Sea (about lat. 70o N) and south along the Asian coast to about lat. 35o N off the South Korean coast in the Sea of Japan. Adults exhibit a benthic lifestyle and occupy separate winter, spawning and summertime feeding distributions on the eastern Bering Sea shelf. From over-winter grounds near the shelf margins, adults begin a migration onto the inner shelf in April or early May each year for spawning and feeding. The directed fishery has typically occurred from winter through autumn (Wilderbuer et al. 1992). Yellowfin sole are managed as a single stock in the BSAI management area as there is presently no evidence of stock structure.
Yellowfin sole have annually been caught with bottom trawls on the Bering Sea shelf since the fishery began in 1954 and were overexploited by foreign fisheries in 1959-62 when catches averaged 404,000 t annually (Fig. 4.1, top panel). As a result of reduced stock abundance, catches declined to an annual average of 117,800 t from 1963-71 and further declined to an annual average of 50,700 t from 1972-77. The lower yield in this latter period was partially due to the discontinuation of the U.S.S.R. fishery. In the early 1980s, after the stock condition had improved, catches again increased reaching a peak of over 227,000 t in 1985.