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Sunset Rockfish

Scientific Name: Sebastes crocotulus

Distribution: Montague Island, Alaska to central Baja California, most common south of Point Conception.

Habitat: Juvenile sunset rockfish settle into shallow (~20m) nearshore reefs and move progressively deeper and offshore with age, adults are typically found deeper than 100m. Juveniles reside over low relief habitat such as sand dollar beds, seagrass, and sandy areas whereas adults are found over high-relief, hard bottom habitats with caves and crevices. Other sheltering sites used by adult sunset rockfish include boulder fields, rock ridges, and the bottom of oil platforms.

Behavior: Large schools of 100 or more are common and include both juveniles and adults. These schools may form along the bottom of the ocean or in the water column. Typically this species aggregates 5-10 m above high-relief reefs. While similar in appearance to vermillion rockfish, sunset rockfish tend to live in deeper waters and have a more yellow-orange body color. Females are larger than males and release larvae year round, producing up to 2.6 million eggs. Common prey items include crustaceans, fishes, shrimps, octopus, and squid.

Why it is important: Sunset rockfish have been previously grouped with vermillion rockfish (Sebastes miniatus); the formal description of sunset rockfish as a unique species is currently pending but genetic and morphometric (size and shape) analyses have identified a number of significant differences between these species. These fish were prized in the 19th century commercial fisheries in San Francisco and San Diego, largely due to their bright coloration and high abundances and when combined with vermilion rockfish they are the third most targeted rockfish in California, first in southern California.

Sources: FishBase, CDFW 2001 (Status Report), Hyde et al. 2008, Love 2011, Kells et al. 2016

Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Sebastes crocotulus

Conservation Status (IUCN): Not Evaluated

Lifespan: 60+ years

Age at Maturity: All mature by 9 years old

Maximum Weight: 14.9 lbs (6.8 kg)

Speed: Unknown

Maximum Length: 2.5 ft (76 cm)

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

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