About the Species
U.S. wild-caught widow rockfish is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
Above target population levels on the Pacific Coast.
At recommended levels.
Most fishing gear used to harvest widow rockfish rarely contacts the ocean floor and has minimal impacts on habitat. Area closures and gear restrictions protect sensitive rocky, cold-water coral and sponge habitats from bottom trawl gear.
Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch of overfished and protected species.
- According to the 2015 stock assessment, the West Coast stock of widow rockfish is not overfished and not subject to overfishing based on 2016 catch data.
- Due to the quick expansion of the West Coast fishery, West Coast widow rockfish populations were depleted and declared overfished in 2001.
- Fishery managers implemented a rebuilding plan in 2001, and declared the stock rebuilt in 2011.
- According to the 2017 stock assessment, the Gulf of Alaska widow rockfish stock is not subject to overfishing but the population status is unknown.
- Widow rockfish are not assessed individually, but are grouped together under a complex with other rockfish.
- Widow rockfish are dusky-brown with traces of light yellow and red.
- They have black fin membranes and a strongly slanted anal fin.
- They have weak or reduced (short) head spines and a mouth that is relatively small when compared to other rockfish.
- Widow rockfish reach lengths up to 24 inches and may live as long as 60 years, but fish older than 20 are uncommon.
- Males grow faster than females, but females reach larger sizes.
- Widow rockfish mature at about 8 years old or when they are about 16.5 inches long.
- Widow rockfish are internal fertilizers, and larvae are released alive in January or February.
- Juveniles feed on krill and copepods.
- Older fish feed on juvenile crabs, amphipods, krill, and small fishes.
- Chinook salmon and northern fur seals feed on juvenile widow rockfish.
Where They Live
- Widow rockfish are found between the Gulf of Alaska and northern Baja California.
- Adults are rarely seen in California and are most abundant from British Columbia to northern California.
- NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the widow rockfish fishery on the West Coast.
- Managed under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan:
- Permits and limited entry to the fishery.
- 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 that includes:
- Catch limits based on the population status of each fish stock and divided into shares that are allocated to individual fishermen or groups.
- Provisions that allow fishermen to decide how and when to catch their share.
- NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council manage widow rockfish as part of the other rockfish complex in the Gulf of Alaska.
- Managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska:
- There is no directed fishery for this species in Alaska, and only minor amounts are landed incidentally in other fisheries.