What fish can live more than 100 years old and grows more fecund every year? The rockfish! These fish live in Puget Sound. More than 65 species of rockfish known to live off the Pacific Coast. They live to be ancient, and grow in fertility every year. But their slow pace of life makes them especially vulnerable to overfishing.
A Patient Fish
Life is slow for a rockfish. They can live to be 120 years old, yet may never leave their home rock pile. They don't begin reproducing until they are five or six years old. As they get older, they have more reproductive success. But that's the challenge for people: as our demand grows, we seek more rockfish. If we catch too many - especially bigger, older fish - it means there aren't enough left to create the next generations of fish and we will no longer have enough.
Rockfish in Danger
Rockfish numbers have plummeted in Puget Sound and elsewhere. Its popularity as a food item has grown, and stocks have been over-fished in the last 20 years. You’ll sometimes find rockfish under different names - such as rock cod or Pacific red snapper - on restaurant menus. Rockfish are also sometimes caught by fishermen seeking halibut.
What The Nature Conservancy is Doing
The waters around the Conservancy’s Yellow Island Preserve in the San Juans are part of the San Juan Islands Marine Preserve, and fishing for salmon or bottom fish such as rockfish is prohibited around the island. The Conservancy is conducting studies to see whether restricting fishing in these waters will enable the rockfish to thrive around Yellow Island - and hopefully elsewhere in Puget Sound.