The eastern Bering Sea was characterized by anomalously warm conditions in 2018. Over the northern…
About the Species
U.S. wild-caught yellowfin 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 habitats affected by bottom trawls used to harvest yellowfin sole.
Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.
- According to the 2018 stock assessment, yellowfin sole in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands are not overfished and are not subject to overfishing.
- In the Gulf of Alaska, yellowfin sole are part of the “shallow water flatfish complex.” According to the 2018 stock assessment, this complex is not overfished and is not subject to overfishing.
- Yellowfin sole are a flatfish with a small mouth and moderately large eyes that are both on one side of their body.
- Their body shape is generally round with rounded edges on the tail fin.
- Their upper side is olive to dark brown with dark mottling, and their underside is pale.
- Yellowfin sole are named for their yellowish fins. Their fins also have faint dark bars and a narrow dark line at their base.
- Their anal spine is thin, sharp, and exposed.
- They have rough scales on both sides of the body.
- Yellowfin sole grow up to more than 1½ feet long and can live up to 39 years.
- Most females are able to reproduce when they reach 10½ years old, or when they’re about 1 foot long.
- They spawn in the spring and summer in shallow waters on the inner continental shelf. Females produce between 1 and 3 million eggs.
- Larvae and early juveniles eat plankton and algae. Late juveniles and adults eat bivalves, worms, amphipods, mollusks, krill, shrimp, brittle stars, sculpins, and other crustaceans.
- Pacific cod and halibut prey on juvenile yellowfin sole.
Where They Live
- In the United States, yellowfin sole are found in the North Pacific Ocean from British Columbia up to the Chukchi Sea (north of the Bering Sea).
- NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the yellowfin sole fishery.
- Managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands:
- Permits are required, and the number of available permits is limited to control the amount of fishing.
- Managers set an annual catch limit for yellowfin sole.
- A percentage of the catch limit is allocated to the community development quota program, which benefits fishery-dependent communities in Western Alaska. The rest is allocated among the various fishing sectors based on gear type, vessel size, and ability to process their catch.
- All yellowfin sole caught must be retained for processing.
- Catch is monitored through record keeping, reporting requirements, and observer coverage.
- Managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska:
- Yellowfin sole is included under this fishery management plan, but only a very small amount is incidentally caught in this area.
Recreational Fishing Regulations
Commercial Fishing Regulations
Yellowfin Sole Research in Alaska
Yellowfin sole is one of the most abundant flatfish species in the eastern Bering Sea and a target of the largest flatfish fishery in the United States. It is found in North American waters from British Columbia to the Chukchi Sea and as far south as the Sea of Japan.
Our research has focused on the study of yellowfin sole growth, reproduction, diet, distribution, and juvenile habitat. We have learned that this fish is slow-growing reaching up to 45 cm in length and 39 years of age. Males become reproductive at about age 7 and females at about age 10, with females producing from 300,000 to 3.6 million eggs. Adults undergo annual spawning migrations of more than 500 km (1000 km round trip) from wintering grounds west and southeast of the Pribilof Islands to nearshore summer spawning grounds in Kuskokwim and Bristol bays. Juveniles live in shallow coastal waters and feed on small animals that live on or in the sandy sea bottom, mostly polychaetes (bristle) worms, shrimp-like amphipods, and clams.
Yellowfin sole are most abundant on the eastern Bering Sea shelf, where annual long-term research surveys have shown biomass to exceed 2 million tons over most years dating back to 1982. Research associated with these surveys has shown that yellowfin summer distributions differ among years depending on bottom temperatures which affect the timing of the yellowfin sole spawning migrations.
Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Amendment 80 Groundfish Trawl Fisheries
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…
EA/RIR/IRFA for Revised Amendment 21 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska and Revised Amendment 16 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands
Revisions to Amendments 21/16 are being considered because a critical component of the bycatch…
Data & Maps
The yellowfin sole (Limanda aspera) is one of the most abundant flatfish species in the eastern…
The goals of the Ecosystem Status Reports are to: (1) provide stronger links between ecosystem…
The goals of the Ecosystem Status Reports are to (1) provide stronger links between ecosystem…
The goals of the Ecosystem Status Reports are to provide stronger links between ecosystem research and fishery management and spur new understanding of the connections between ecosystem components by bringing together the results of diverse research