About the Species
U.S. wild-caught arrowtooth flounder is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
Above target population levels.
At recommended levels.
Area closures and gear restrictions protect habitats affected by some types of fishing gear used to harvest arrowtooth flounder.
Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.
- There are three stocks of arrowtooth flounder: Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, Gulf of Alaska, and Pacific coast. According to the most recent stock assessments:
The Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands stock is not overfished (2020 stock assessment) and not subject to overfishing based on 2020 catch data. Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.
The Gulf of Alaska stock is not overfished (2020 stock assessment) and not subject to overfishing based on 2020 catch data. Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.
The Pacific coast stock is not overfished (2017 stock assessment) and not subject to overfishing based on 2018 catch data. Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.
- Arrowtooth flounder are a relatively large, brownish colored flatfish with a large mouth.
- They’re members of the family Pleuronectidae, the right-eyed flounders, which have both eyes on the right side and lie on the ocean floor on their left side.
- Arrowtooth flounder grow slowly and can live up to 27 years.
- Males can reach 2 feet in length, and females grow a bit larger, up to almost 3 feet.
- Males sexually mature when they reach 3 to 7 years old, and females are able to reproduce when they reach 4 to 8 years old.
- Spawning season varies by location:
- Off the West Coast from late fall through early spring.
- In the Gulf of Alaska during spring and summer.
- Off the coast of Alaska during fall and winter.
- They spawn multiple times during a spawning season, releasing eggs that are then fertilized externally.
- Arrowtooth flounder eggs hatch in deep water (below 400 meters) and rise up the water column as they develop, then settle to the ocean bottom during the summer and fall.
- Larvae eat copepods, a type of small crustacean.
- Juveniles and adults feed on crustaceans (mainly pink shrimp and krill) and fish (mainly cod, herring, and pollock).
- A variety of fish and marine mammals prey on arrowtooth flounder, including skates, sharks, shortspine thornyhead, halibut, orcas, other toothed whales, and harbor seals.
- In the Gulf of Alaska, arrowtooth flounder are an important part of the diet of Steller sea lions.
Where They Live
- Arrowtooth flounder are found from Northern California through the Bering Sea.
- NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the arrowtooth flounder fishery in Alaska.
- Managed under the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fishery Management Plans:
- Arrowtooth flounder are included in these fishery management plans because of their importance to the ecosystem (it’s a very abundant flatfish and an important part of the food chain as both predator and prey).
- Commercial interest in arrowtooth flounder has grown in recent years.
- Limit on the total amount of arrowtooth flounder that can be harvested each year. Annual harvests have consistently been below this level.
- NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the arrowtooth flounder fishery on the West Coast.
- Managed under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan:
- Limits on the number of permits and fishermen allowed.
- Limits on the minimum size of fish that may be harvested.
- Limit on how much may be harvested in one fishing trip.
- Certain seasons and areas are closed to fishing.
- Gear restrictions help reduce bycatch and impacts on habitat.
- A trawl rationalization catch share program includes:
- Catch limits based on population information for each fish stock and divided into shares that are allocated to individual fishermen or groups.
- These fishermen can decide how and when to catch their share—preferably when weather, markets, and business conditions are most favorable, allowing the fishery the flexibility to be more environmentally responsible, safer, more efficient, and more valuable.
- In 2019, commercial landings of arrowtooth flounder totaled more than 72.1 million pounds and were valued at over $7.2 million, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database.
- Although arrowtooth flounder are a low-value fish, fishermen have been retaining more of the arrowtooth they catch – up to about 80 percent in Alaska.
- Catches have been higher because arrowtooth flounder are more abundant, resulting in higher incidental catch in other fisheries, in addition to increased marketing efforts for arrowtooth fish meal and surimi.
- Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
- Bottom trawl gear is used to catch arrowtooth flounder.
- In general, arrowtooth flounder live on sandy or sand/gravel habitats. These soft bottom habitats are usually more resilient than other habitats to trawling impacts.
- In Alaska, NOAA Fisheries scientists and the flatfish fishing industry collaborated to develop changes to fishing gear that would reduce effects of flatfish trawling on seafloor habitats of the central Gulf of Alaska and the eastern Bering Sea shelf. The modified gear they developed – Bering Sea flatfish gear – not only reduced impacts to sea floor habitat and the animals living there but also reduced the fishery’s impacts on crabs. In the central Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea areas, flatfish fishermen are now required to use this modified fishing gear.
- Halibut are sometimes incidentally caught, but there is a limit on the number of halibut that can be incidentally caught in the fishery. When this limit is reached, the directed fishery is closed.
- Some rockfish are still unintentionally caught, but management caps the amount of rockfish that can be incidentally caught in the fishery.
- To protect sensitive fish habitat off the West Coast, gear restrictions limit where flatfish fishermen can fish.
Recreational Fishing Regulations
Commercial Fishing Regulations
Subsistence Fishing Regulations
Arrowtooth Flounder Research in Alaska
Arrowtooth flounder is a relatively large flatfish and one of the most abundant fish in the Gulf of Alaska. It plays an important role in Alaska’s complex marine food chain. It feeds extensively on the commercially important walleye pollock. In turn, they are food for Alaska Steller sea lions, making up almost 35% of their diet.
Though the population can be found as far south as central California, it is known to spawn in Alaskan waters and the eastern Bering Sea from December through February.
A small commercial fishery operates off Kodiak Alaska targeting this fish.
We have been involved in a variety of research to learn more about its reproduction and early stages of development. We also have examined environmental influences, such as temperature on the growth and distribution of eggs and larval fish.
- GUYON, J. R., HV. T. NGUYEN, C.M. GUTHRIE III, J. BONNEY, K. McGAULEY, K. HANSEN, and J. GAUVIN. 2015. Genetic stock composition analysis of Chinook salmon bycatch samples from the rockfish and arrowtooth flounder 2013 Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries and the Gulf of Alaska salmon excluder device test. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-AFSC-289.
- De FOREST, L., J. T. DUFFY-ANDERSON, R. A. HEINTZ, A. C. MATARESE, E. C. SIDDON, T. I. SMART, and I. B. SPIES. 2014. Taxonomy of the early life stages of arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias) and Kamchatka flounder (A. evermanni) in the eastern Bering Sea, with notes on distribution and condition. Deep-Sea Res. II 109:181-189.
- MARSH, J. M., N. HILLGRUBER, and R. J. FOY. 2012. Temporal and ontogenetic variability in trophic role of four groundfish species -- walleye pollock, Pacific cod, arrowtooth flounder, and Pacific halibut -- around Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 141:468-486.
- STARK, J. W. 2012. Female maturity, reproductive potential, relative distribution, and growth compared between arrowtooth flounder (Atheresthes stomias) and Kamchatka flounder (A. evermanni) indicating concerns for management. J. Appl. Ichthyol. 28: 226–230.
- Can Temperature-dependent Egg Development Affect Connectivity Between Spawning Areas and Nursery Grounds for Arrowtooth Flounder (Atheresthes stomias) in the Gulf of Alaska? By: WILLIAM STOCKHAUSEN, DEBORAH BLOOD, KENNETH COYLE. Conference: Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, AK, Jan 2015.
- Energy Allocation of Young of the Year Arrowtooth Flounder in the Gulf of Alaska - a Different Strategy? By: CASEY DEBENHAM. Conference: International Flatfish Symposium (9th), Cle Elum, WA, Nov 2014.
- Ingrid Spies, Status of Stocks and Multispecies Assessments
Recent Science Blogs
The eastern Bering Sea was characterized by anomalously warm conditions in 2018. Over the northern…
Finding of No Significant Impact for a Regulatory Amendment to Revise The Maximum Retainable Amounts of Groundfish Using Arrowtooth Flounder and Kamchatka Flounder as Basis Species and Separate Management of Kamchatka Flounder in the BSAI
Revision to the maximum retainable amounts for groundfish using arrowtooth flounder and Kamchatka…
EA/RIR/FRFA for a Proposed Regulatory Amendment to Implement the Fishery Management Plan for the Groundfish Fishery of the BSAI to Revise the Maximum Retainable Amounts of Groundfish in the Arrowtooth Flounder Fishery
Analysis to evaluate the environmental impacts, costs and benefits, and small entity impacts of a…
Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review/Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis for a Regulatory Amendment to Revise the Maximum Retainable Amounts of Groundfish in the Arrowtooth Flounder Fishery: Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska Management Plan
Maximum retainable amounts of selected groundfish in the arrowtooth flounder fishery in the Gulf of…
Data & Maps
The scheduled frequency for some stock assessments was recently changed in response to the National…
Conditions in the Gulf of Alaska were close to average in 2020...
Considerable cooling began in late December 2019 and allowed for rapid build-up of sea ice,…