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Of the more than 70 species of rockfish living off the United States' west coast, the bocaccio rockfish is one of the most endangered. While this 3-foot fish reaches reproductive age sooner than many overfished species -- as early as four to five years -- its larvae have a very low survival rate. Changes in ocean currents and temperature since the 1970s mean that large numbers of bocaccio larvae live to become juveniles only once every 20 years. In response to their dwindling numbers, the United States closed several fisheries along the West Coast in 2002. But even without trawling in these areas, scientists believe it could take 100 years for bocaccio populations to recover. With such significant challenges to recovery, the IUCN has listed the species as critically endangered.
Eastern Pacific: Stepovak Bay, Alaskan Peninsula to Punta Blanca, Baja California, Mexico.
Adults occur over rocky reefs but also common on open bottom from 27-320 m depth. Young live in shallower water. Young form schools and are caught more frequently, especially in rocky areas. Feeds mainly on fishes, including other rockfishes. Ovoviviparous, may produce as much as 2,300,000 young in a batch (Ref. 6885). A famous sport fish throughout its range. Its spines are venomous.
Evidently has declined primarily as a result of overutilization by fisheries targeting bocaccio and as bycatch in other fisheries. NMFS (2002) summarized recent fishery management aimed at reducing this threat and allowing the stock to recover.
Habitat likely has been degraded by commercial trawling, but this type of trawling has now been excluded from primary bocaccio habitat.
Protracted, warm ocean conditions in the 1990s were associated with poor recruitment and undoubtedly contributed to the decline in abundance.
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- Justin Sun
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- Public Domain