Questions & Answers on NOAA Fisheries Endangered Species Act Listings of Rockfish in Puget Sound

Q. What did NOAA Fisheries announce Apr 27, 2010, about rockfishes in Puget Sound?
We announced that we listed the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin distinct population segments (DPSs) of yelloweye and canary rockfish as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We also announced that we listed the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin DPS of bocaccio as endangered under the ESA.

Q. Why did NOAA decide to list yelloweye and canary rockfish and bocaccio under the ESA?
After reviewing the best scientific and commercial information available, we determined that yelloweye rockfish, canary rockfish and bocaccio in the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin are distinct population segments (DPSs). After evaluating threats facing each species, and considering efforts being made to protect rockfish, we determined that these yelloweye and canary rockfish are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. We also determined that these bocaccio are in danger of extinction. Threats to each species include habitats degraded by derelict fishing gear that continue to catch fish, chemical contaminants and low levels of dissolved oxygen, and incidental catch from recreational and commercial fisheries. All three rockfish were harvested at high levels in the past, depleting their numbers. Like most rockfish, these bottom dwellers are long-lived and slow to mature and reproduce, making them especially vulnerable to overfishing.

Q. What is a distinct population segment?
The ESA defines the term species to include a subspecies or a distinct population segment (DPS) of any vertebrate species that interbreeds when mature. To be considered distinct, a population, or group of populations, must be discrete from the remainder of the species to which it belongs, and significant to the species to which it belongs as a whole.

Q. Why did NOAA Fisheries review the ESA status of five rockfish species in Puget Sound?
Any person can petition the Secretary (of Interior or Commerce) to list or delist a species under the ESA. Within 90 days after receiving a petition, to the maximum extent practicable, the Secretary must make a finding as to whether the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. If a petition is found to present such information, the Secretary must promptly start a review of the status of the species concerned. In April 2007, we received a petition from Sam Wright to list bocaccio and canary, yelloweye, greenstriped and redstripe rockfishes in Puget Sound under the ESA. In October 2007, we rejected that petition and declined to initiate a review of the species’ ESA status. Later that month, we received a letter from Mr. Wright presenting information that was not included in the April 2007 petition. It requested that we reconsider our earlier decision not to initiate a review of the species’ status.

We then found that the April 2007 petition, as supplemented by the information included in the October 2007 letter, presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted. We initiated a status review of these five rockfish species, and have now listed three of them under the ESA.

In order to ensure that the final action is as accurate and effective as possible, and informed by the best available scientific and commercial information, we solicited information, comments, and suggestions from the public, other governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties during a 60-day comment period. All substantive comments received during the comment period were responded to in the final listing determination.

Q. Has NOAA Fisheries proposed critical habitat and protective regulations for Puget Sound/Georgia Basin yelloweye and canary rockfish and bocaccio?
No. In this final rule we announced that we’ll propose protective regulations and critical habitat in subsequent Federal Register notices. Because bocaccio are listed as endangered, the ESA Section 9 prohibition against take of this species goes into effect 90 days from the time of listing.

Q. What will be the effects of listing these rockfish species?
We will need to review various activities’ impacts on the species (ESA consultation) and make adjustments to those actions if necessary.

Q. How does the U.S. listing affect the Canadian portion of the rockfish DPSs?
The ESA listing affects only activities within U.S. jurisdiction. Yelloweye and canary rockfish and bocaccio are under consideration for addition to the Canadian Species at Risk Act. The Canadian Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) review concluded that bocaccio and canary rockfish are threatened. The COSEWIC review concluded that yelloweye rockfish are as species of special concern. We’ll continue to coordinate with our Canadian counterparts on rockfish conservation.