Protecting rockfish

Sharing responsibility for sustainable recreational fisheries in the Pacific Region

Responsible fishing counts

There are 38 species of rockfish along the coast of BC — some living for over 100 years! Long-lived and slow to grow and reproduce, rockfish don’t stray far from home habitats, making them extra sensitive to fishing pressure.

Slow to grow and reproduce, some rockfish species are of conservation concern and more help is needed.

While commercial and recreational fishing restrictions have been in place in 164 Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs) since 2007, some species such as Yelloweye Rockfish continue to be of conservation concern.

More action is needed to help rebuild, protect and sustain rockfish populations.

What is barotrauma and why are rockfish at risk

Many bony fishes have swim bladders to regulate buoyancy and enable them to travel up and down the water column, but rockfish have “closed” swim bladders that don’t adjust to rapid pressure changes during ascent, causing them to expand with gases

Depth About

15 to 0 feet
4.5 to 0 metres
Barotrauma signs/effects include protruding stomach and bulging eyes.

Rockfish with inflated swim bladders will need help descending below the surface or they will die.

30 to 15 feet
9 to 4.5 metres
“Closed” swim bladders expand during ascent

During ascent, rockfish experience a life-threatening expansion of internal gases, distending the swim bladder, bulging the eyes, and pushing the stomach into and through the mouth.

60+ feet
18+ metres
Rockfish have “closed” swim bladders

Using a descending device to quickly lower rockfish to near the depth of capture allows expanded internal gases to recompress and swim bladders to return to normal.

How to help rockfish survive barotrauma

Survival rates improve when rockfish are quickly lowered and released with a descending device

Common types of descending devices

Rockfish Conservation Areas

164 Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs) covering 4,800 km of coastal waters in BC are one of the largest marine networks of conservation-based fisheries closures in the British Columbia region. Most fishing activities, including recreational halibut and salmon fishing, are prohibited in all 164 RCAs.