Rockfish are often featured on popular “catch and cook” YouTube channels, because they make such tasty fish tacos.
But if you see this particular rockfish, you should consider throwing it back, and here’s why.
The China rockfish (Sebastes nebulosus) is truly a spectacle to behold. With its dark-bluish or black body, speckled flecks of yellowish, slightly-iridescent color, and wide yellow strip along its sides, they almost seem to glow when viewed underwater. This bumpy-skinned sea dweller, with an incredibly prominent, spiky spine, is considered by some to be the most beautiful rockfish in the world.
“These are one of the most attractive species of rockfish out there,” Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “They can vary in color from black or blue-black, mottled with yellow and sometimes white.”
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has identified the China rockfish as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need and a Protected Species; that’s one reason to let it live another day—instead of letting it end up in your frying pan.
The China rockfish inhabits waters off the coast of Alaska all the way down to Southern California. They grow as large as 18 inches long and can live to the ripe age of 79 years (some species of rockfish can live 116 years out in the wild). They inhabit depths of between 10 and 420 feet, generally living around reefs, high-relief rocky outcrops, and crevices.
They are a solitary species, and can even get aggressive.
“They can be quite territorial and are not much for traveling,” said Boothe. “Usually most active at dusk, they do not travel further than 20 or so feet from their established territory. They prefer complex habitats like boulder fields or kelp beds and are sometimes found living in dens or caves occupied by giant Pacific octopus.”
Rockfish love to chow down on small hermit crabs, larger crabs, and brittle stars, Boothe added.
As for bringing home dinner from fishing, should you choose to let this one off the hook, there are plenty of other fish in the sea—besides the China rockfish.