Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Amendment 80 Groundfish Trawl Fisheries
About The Species
U.S. wild-caught rock sole 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 habitat affected by bottom trawls used to harvest rock sole.
Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.
- There are two species of rock sole, northern rock sole and southern rock sole.
- Northern rock sole are found in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, and according to a 2018 stock assessment are not overfished and are not subject to overfishing.
- Both the northern and southern species of rock sole are found in the Gulf of Alaska, and according to a 2018 stock assessment are not overfished and are not subject to overfishing.
- On the West Coast, rock sole make up only a small percentage of groundfish harvests. Scientists do not formally assess this species so the population status is unknown.
- Rock sole are part of the “other flatfish” complex on the West Coast, and are not subject to overfishing based on 2016 catch data.
- Rock sole are a flatfish with both eyes located on the right side of their head.
- Northern rock sole’s underside is creamy white, whereas southern rock sole’s underside is white with glossy highlights.
- Rock sole are sometimes called roughback because of the rough scales on their backs.
- Rock sole grow up to 2 feet long and can live for more than 20 years.
- They are able to reproduce when they reach 4 to 7 years old.
- Northern rock sole spawn in midwinter and spring, and southern rock sole spawn in the summer.
- Females lay eggs near the ocean bottom, and the eggs stick wherever they land. Eggs hatch between 6 and 25 days later, depending on water temperature.
- Larval rock sole eat plankton and algae.
- Early juveniles eat zooplankton, and late juvenile and adults prey on bivalves, worms, amphipods, mollusks, and crustaceans.
- Larger fishes, including rock sole, feed on larval and juvenile rock sole.
- Sharks, marine mammals, and larger fishes prey on adults.
- Rock sole’s coloring and movements on the sea floor often confuse predators.
Where They Live
- Northern rock sole are found from Puget Sound through the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to the Kuril Islands (north of Japan).
- Southern rock sole are found from the southeast Bering Sea to Baja California.
- NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council manage this fishery in Alaska.
- Managed under the Fishery Management Plans for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska:
- Fishermen must have a permit to participate in the fishery, and the number of available permits is limited to control the amount of fishing.
- Managers set an annual catch limit for rock sole.
- In the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands a percentage of the annual catch limit is allocated to the community development quota program, which benefits fishery-dependent communities in Western Alaska. The rest is allocated under a catch share program to a trawl catcher/processor sector based on historic harvest and future harvest needs to improve retention and utilization of fishery resources by the trawl fleet.
- In the Gulf of Alaska, total allowable catch is allocated by regulatory area (western, central, and two sub-areas of the eastern Gulf of Alaska).
- Catch is monitored through record keeping, reporting requirements, and observer monitoring.
- NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage this fishery on the West Coast.
- Managed under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan:
- Only a small amount of rock sole is harvested incidentally in fisheries off the West Coast.
- Rock sole is included in the groundfish fishery management plan, but it is not assessed or directly managed.
Recreational Fishing Regulations
Commercial Fishing Regulations
NOAA Fisheries conducts various research activities on the biology, behavior, and ecology of rock sole. The results of this research are used to inform management decisions for this species.
Rock Sole in Alaska
Our research in Alaska on the distribution and abundance, growth and maturity, habitat preference, migration behavior, and food relationships of rock sole provides information crucial for understanding and managing this species.
Environmental Assessment of an Experimental Fishing Permit to Test the Effects of an Open-top Trawl Configuration on Species and Size Composition of Catch in Trawls Targeting Yellowfin Sole
This Environmental Assessment addresses an experimental fishing permit application by the…
Data & Maps
The Gulf of Alaska (GOA) northern and southern rock sole assessment has been moved to a 4-year…
The 2018 bottom trawl survey point estimate is a 21% decrease from the 2017 estimate. These two…
2017 Alaska Fisheries Science Center Northern and Southern Rock Sole Stock Assessment in the Gulf of Alaska
The National Standard Guidelines for Fishery Management Plans published by the National Marine…
2017 Alaska Fisheries Science Center Northern Rock Sole Stock Assessment in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
The Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) report summarizes the best available scientific…
The rock sole, along with other flatfishes are an important trawl fishery resource in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. There are two species, the southern rock sole which is more common in the Gulf of Alaska and the northern rock sole which are