Scientific Name: Sebastes levis

Distribution: Northern Oregon to central Baja California, but most common from central California to Baja California.

Habitat: Juvenile cowcod have been seen as shallow as 55 ft (17 m) and adults range from 50-1,610 ft (15-491 m). However, mature cowcod are most commonly found from 426-705 ft (130-215 m). Juvenile cowcod inhabit areas with hard and low relief such as cobble, near pipelines, etc. Adult cowcod inhabit areas with complex high-relief habitats often including areas they can use for shelter such as rocky reefs, pipelines, and oil platforms. Cowcod can be found in temperatures ranging from 46-54°F (7.7-12.4°C), but are mostly found within a small temperature range of 48-51°F (9-10.7°C).

Behavior: Cowcod are typically observed as solitary individuals in close association with high relief rock habitat. Not much is currently known about the movement behaviors of these fish and SCATTN researchers are currently tagging cowcod to assess catch-and-release mortality and learn more about their behavior and habitat preference. Due to overexploitations this species is most abundant on deeper offshore banks and are seldomly observed on shallower nearshore banks. However, fishery closures and a series of good recruitment (number of fish surviving to enter the fishery) events have led to increased observation of subadult cowcod on these shallower nearshore reefs. Juvenile cowcod eat invertebrates such as copepods and shrimps as well as small fishes. Adult cowcod eat fish and cephalopods and are typically the top resident predator on deep reefs in California.

Why it is important: Cowcod reach the largest size of any rockfish in central and southern California. This species has historically been an important commercial fishery in the Southern California Bight and gained popularity in the recreational fishery. In 2000, cowcod were determined to be overfished and steps to rebuild the population were set in motion. Due to the slow growing and late maturity nature of this species, original estimates of stock rebuilding time were several decades. However a recent assessment (2013) has suggested that depth and area closures (such as the Cowcod Conservation Area) have greatly reduced cowcod mortality and the stock is recovering much quicker than expected.

Sources: FishBase, Love et al., 2002, Love 2011, Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC)

Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Sebastes levis

Conservation Status (IUCN): Not evaluated

Lifespan: 55+ years

Age at Maturity: Females 16 years; Males 14 years

Maximum Weight: 29 lbs (13.2 kg)

Speed: Unknown

Maximum Length: 3.3 ft (100 cm)

Habitat: Temperate deep-water reefs, typically associated with medium to high-relief reefs

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