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MESA: Shortraker Rockfish Fishery & Assessment

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Shortraker Rockfish:
Fishery & Assessment
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Shortraker catch on a longline vessel
Shortraker catch on a longline vessel.

Shortraker rockfish has been its own management category in the Gulf of Alaska only since 2005. Previously, it was managed jointly with rougheye rockfish. Shortraker rockfish can be caught with either bottom trawls or longlines. Directed fishing is not allowed for shortraker rockfish, and all the catch is taken incidentally to other fisheries, particularly fisheries for sablefish. Due to its large size and bright red color, this species is one of the most valuable slope rockfish in landed price. Annual catches of shortraker rockfish in the Gulf of Alaska have ranged from 500 to 1,500 metric tons since the early 1990s.

Because of its longevity, general lack of biological information, and uncertain biomass estimates in NMFS bottom trawl surveys, shortraker rockfish has been managed conservatively in the Gulf of Alaska. Although trends in stock abundance are difficult to discern, catch levels of shortraker rockfish are believed to be well below the level of over-exploitation.

Shortraker rockfish have long been considered one of the most difficult rockfish species for age determination. New aging methods have been developed for shortraker rockfish that for the first time may allow reliable ages to be determined. If reliable ages become available, it may be possible to apply statistical catch-at-age models to shortraker rockfish populations in the Gulf of Alaska. Use of these models would improve our knowledge of abundance trends for shortraker rockfish and help in the determination of appropriate harvest levels.

Shortraker rockfish caught on a trawler
Shortraker rockfish caught on a trawler.

Dave Clausen
Auke Bay Laboratories
Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries

Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute
17109 Pt Lena Loop Rd
Juneau AK 99801

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