Colorful, long-lived rockfish
There are more than 100 species of rockfish around the world, many of which are found along the Pacific coast of North America, and 24 of those make their homes in the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle Aquarium exhibits about 14 different rockfish species!
Rockfish have very long life spans compared to the majority of the world's fish species. While many other fish species live anywhere from two to 10 years, some rockfish species can live to be well over 100 years!
The bad news about long lives
Because rockfish are so long-lived, many don’t begin breeding until they’re nearly 20 years old. Add in the fact that rockfish are considered a desirable seafood item, and it’s easy to understand why they’re susceptible to overfishing. In fact, most rockfish are listed as a fish to avoid on the Seafood Watch cards available at the Seattle Aquarium.
Differences and similarities
Rockfish come in a wide variety of colors, patterns, shapes and sizes. But they do share a few key characteristics that identify them as rockfish: large eyes and mouth; a compressed lower body; a jutting lower jaw; and a large dorsal fin with well-developed spines. View an infographic of rockfish species common to Puget Sound here.
Watch out for those spines!
Rockfish, like all members of the Scorpaenidae family, have venomous spines on their dorsal fins. Some fish species within this family have spines that are quite toxic. That’s not the case for rockfish, but rockfish venom can cause a good amount of pain and lead to infection—yet another reason to avoid these fish and let them reach the end of their natural lifespans in the wild!
You can help take care of wild rockfish
Rockfish live in a variety of habitats and at a variety of depths. Some species school together; others live solitary lives. But regardless of where and how they live, rockfish need clean water and undisrupted habitats to grow and thrive. You can help them by doing your part to protect Puget Sound and the ocean beyond, and choosing seafood from the “Best Choices” and “Good Alternatives” lists on the Seafood Watch cards at the Seattle Aquarium.