|Sebastes nebulosus in Neah Bay, WA|
The China rockfish has a distinctive appearance, with a dark blue or black body crossed by a patchy but obvious yellow stripe that extends from around the third dorsal spine down and then along the lateral line. Although the black-and-yellow rockfish is similar in appearance, the China rockfish has a continuous yellow band while the black-and-yellow has scattered patches of yellow. The body of the China Rockfish may be covered with small whitish or yellowish spots. Maximum reported size is 45 cm (18 inches).
Early life history is little-known; juveniles have been observed in shallow coastal water. Adults are solitary and territorial, preferring rocky outcrops with boulder fields and crevices. When confronted with an intruder, the fish erect its spines and try to look larger. The territories are apparently small, with a study off Vancouver Island finding Chinas moving only within 10 m (33 ft). They feed on benthic organisms, including brittle stars, chitons, and crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp.
They have been popular for commercial fishing since the 19th century. During the 1930s, Chinas sold for twice as much as any other rockfish except the black-and-yellow rockfish, and for more than any other kind of finfish. They are today popular in Asia, often being sold alive. Commercial fishing methods include hook and line, longline, and trapping.
The species epithet nebulosus is Latin for "clouded". Although Jordan and Evermann promoted the common name "yellowspotted rockfish", the "China" name has persisted, due to a perceived preference by persons of Chinese ancestry living in central California. The species was actually described by both W. O. Ayres and Charles Frédéric Girard in the same year, with Girard naming the species S. fasciatus, but the name had already been used for the Acadian redfish and thus Ayres' choice prevailed.
A stock assessment of China rockfish conducted in 2015 estimated the stock to be at 28% of unfished level in California, but less depleted in Oregon and Washington, at 62% and 73%, respectively. However, the stock in California waters (which only included the area up to Cape Mendocino) was estimated as showing an increasing trend in abundance, as this area had seen larger reductions in catch than the other areas.
- Dick EJ, Monk M, Taylor I, Haltuch M, Tsou T-S, Mirick P (2015), Status of China rockfish off the U.S. Pacific Coast in 2015 (PDF), Portland, OR: Pacific Fisheries Management Council
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