Groundfish and Rockfish
Puget Sound groundfish include more than 150 species, including sharks, rockfishes, codfishes, flatfishes, and lingcod, among others. These fish live near or on the bottom of the Sound for most of their adult lives, and they make up a high percent of the biomass of the ecosystem.
Groundfish and rockfish play an important role in the food web, serving as a link between nearshore and mid-waters as well as the seafloor. Many of the harvestable groundfish species are in sharp decline including pacific cod, hake, walleye pollock and several other species of rockfish.
What is the problem?
Groundfish and rockfish stocks throughout Puget Sound have declined dramatically in the past 25 years. More than 27 species of rockfish (an extremely long-lived group of fish) have been recorded in the inland marine waters of the Washington State. 13 species of rockfish are listed as Washington State candidates for protection. Pacific hake remains as a federal ‘Endangered Species Act‘ candidate species.
Some of the startling statistics include:
Pacific cod and hake populations have plummeted during the past two decades in Puget Sound and show no signs of recovery. Walleye pollock and spiny dogfish also show signs of stress and reduced numbers. The most commonly caught species of rockfish are now in poor condition and some others species show signs of decline. The spawning potential of copper rockfish in northern Puget Sound decreased by 75% from 1978-1999. The spawning potential for copper rockfish in southern Puget Sound decreased by 90% from 1978-1999. Rockfish fishing has been permanently closed or severely limited in many areas throughout Puget Sound.
In some cases, the declines of groundfish may be the result of changes in water temperature, especially for migratory species such as Pacific cod, hake and walleye pollock.
More about Rockfish…
Rockfish, on the other hand, are generally not migratory, but remain loyal to the site where they settle out as larvae. They are susceptible to pressures from fishing partly because they do not move very far or very fast, and partly because they are opportunistic and non-discriminating feeders. The strongest suspected cause of decline of rockfish is associated with both sport and commercial fishing.