NOAA Fisheries proposes delisting Puget Sound/Georgia Basin canary rockfish

NOAA Fisheries is proposing to remove Puget Sound/Georgia Basin canary rockfish from the federal list of threatened and endangered species. The action comes after a recent cooperative study found that the population was not genetically distinct from other canary rockfish along the West Coast.

The proposal to delist the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin canary rockfish distinct population segment (DPS) was published in the Federal Register today, and will be open to public comment for 60 days.

In 2010 NOAA Fisheries listed the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin canary rockfish, yelloweye rockfish and bocaccio under the Endangered Species Act as distinct population segments, which are defined as discrete from the rest of the species.

Following the listing NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle launched a study to gather and study samples from Puget Sound rockfish to better understand their genetic makeup. The study drew on the expertise of local fishing guides, Puget Sound Anglers and the Kitsap Pogie fishing clubs and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to locate and catch enough canary and yelloweye rockfish to conduct the genetic analysis using small tissue samples taken from the fins of each fish.

Rockfish caught for the study were handled carefully and were released using a special descending device to avoid barotrauma, which is caused by the change in air pressure when a fish is brought from deep waters to the surface.

The analysis showed that Puget Sound canary rockfish are not genetically distinct from canary rockfish on the West Coast, prompting the delisting proposal. NOAA Fisheries is also proposing to remove critical habitat designations for the Puget Sound canary rockfish DPS.

The analysis affirmed that Puget Sound/Georgia Basin yelloweye rockfish are genetically distinct from coastal populations, so yelloweye rockfish will remain listed under the ESA. Not enough bocaccio were found to conduct a thorough analysis or change their status, so bocaccio will also remain listed.

Rockfish are long-lived, reproduce slowly, and are an important element of the Puget Sound ecosystem. Research indicates that total rockfish abundance in Puget Sound has dropped approximately 70 percent in the last 40 years. NOAA Fisheries is developing a recovery plan for yelloweye rockfish and bocaccio, which will serve as a roadmap for conservation and recovery of the species.

Washington lists canary rockfish as a Species of Concern and currently does not allow recreational anglers to target, possess or retain any rockfish species in Puget Sound. Washington also currently does not allow recreational bottom-fishing below 120 feet to protect rockfish from barotrauma and no commercial fisheries currently target rockfish in Puget Sound.

For further details and frequently asked questions on this proposal, visit

For more information about rockfish conservation and recovery planning in Puget Sound, visit

Learn how local anglers assisted with rockfish conservation