We have approved squid and butterfish specifications for the remainder of the 2019 fishing year, including a 2,000-metric ton (mt) increase in the Illex squid acceptable biological catch. A full summary of information about squid and
About the Species
U.S. wild-caught butterfish is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
Above target population level.
At recommended levels.
Fishing gears used to harvest butterfish have minimal impacts on habitat.
Regulations limit possession of bycatch species and require modified fishing gear to reduce bycatch.
- According to the 2018 stock assessment, butterfish are not overfished and not subject to overfishing.
- The assessment indicated that butterfish are estimated to be at 141 percent of the target population level. However, scientists are concerned that recruitment (the number of smaller fish entering the fishery) has been declining in recent years.
- Scientists at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center survey the abundance of butterfish off the East Coast.
- They added temperature and habitat information into the stock assessment model, which helps them more accurately estimate fish abundance. Using this approach, the model indicated that the population was more abundant than previously estimated.
- Incorporating this type of environmental information into stock assessments will become increasingly important as the climate changes and the oceans warm.
- Butterfish are dull blue on the top, with pale sides and a silvery belly. Numerous irregular dark spots fade after they are harvested.
- Very thin and deep-bodied, like a flounder set upright, and somewhat circular or rounded.
- Small mouths with weak teeth and blunt noses.
- 6 to 9 inches in length, though some individuals can reach 12 inches.
- Up to 1.25 pounds in weight.
- Butterfish are short-lived and grow rapidly.
- Few live to more than 3 years of age, and most are sexually mature at age 1.
- Spawning occurs during June and July.
- They are semi-pelagic, and form loose schools that feed upon small invertebrates.
- They have a high natural mortality rate and are preyed upon by many species of fish, marine mammals, and seabirds.
Where They Live
- Butterfish are found from Florida to Newfoundland, but they are primarily found from Cape Hatteras to the Gulf of Maine.
- NOAA Fisheries and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council manage the butterfish fishery.
- Managed under the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan:
- Fishermen must have a permit to harvest butterfish. Managers limit the amount of available permits to control harvests.
- Annual catch limits are in place to prevent overfishing.
- Managers monitor commercial catch weekly.
- Vessel trip limits are based on gear mesh sizes, and are adjusted based on landings.
Recreational Fishing Regulations
Commercial Fishing Regulations
Exempted fisheries allow vessels to fish for specific species without being subject to certain northeast (NE) multispecies regulations, including days-at-sea, provided the bycatch of regulated species is minimal. These are two small-mesh exemption areas