The shortraker rockfish (Sebastes borealis) is an offshore, demersal species distributed from the southeastern Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia, to Fort Bragg, California. It attains lengths greater than one metre (>39 inches) and weighs up to 20 kg (44 pounds). In the Gulf of Alaska, shortraker rockfish are sampled annually during longline surveys and are most abundant between depths of 300–400 metres (980–1,310 ft).
The Shortraker rockfish lifespan is thought to average about 120 years, the second-longest of all varieties of rockfish to the rougheye rockfish, estimated at 140 years. This makes rockfish some of the world’s oldest living fish.
Commercial harvesting in the Gulf of Alaska began in the early 1960s when foreign trawl fleets were targeting more abundant species.[full citation needed] In recent years, high catch rates indicate that the domestic trawl fleet targets this species; shortraker rockfish comprised 14.9% of the species composition of slope rockfish harvested in 1990, although trawl survey data indicates they comprised only 2.5% of the biomass.
In 1991, catch limits were established for shortraker rockfish to prevent overharvesting of this species in the Gulf of Alaska. Catch limits are based on biomass estimates derived from bottom trawl catch rates. These biomass estimates are questionable, however, because the catch efficiency of bottom trawls on shortrakers is unknown. Fishermen report that shortrakers school off-bottom and above rugged habitat in steep-slope areas where bottom trawls cannot sample effectively.
Fish age is estimated by counting growth rings in its earbone, known as an otilith, similar to tree age dating. However, the method is only accurate in temperate regions, where variances between warm and cool season growth rates create distinct ring borders. In both tropical and arctic waters it becomes very difficult to distinguish such annual variations. However, as shortraker rockfish caught off Sitka are regarded as coming from waters along the boundary of temperate and arctic regions annual growth rings can be slightly discernible.
The record for oldest shortraker rockfish is 175 years, established by a 32.5" specimen.
In 2007, fishermen caught a specimen that was estimated to be between 90 and 115 years old. The fish weighed in at 62 pounds (28 kg) and was measured at 112 centimetres (44 in). It was caught south of the Pribilof Islands at an estimated depth of 2,100 feet (640 m).
In 2013, Henry Liebman, a sport fisherman from Seattle, caught a specimen from 900 feet (270 m) below the surface and 10 miles offshore near Sitka, Alaska. Experts believed the 42-inch, 39.08 pounds (17.73 kg), shortraker was the oldest ever caught, with an estimated age of 200 years. It was later found that the fish was only 64 years old.
- Kramer, D.E.; O'Connell, V.M. (1986). "Guide to northeast Pacific rockfishes". Marien Advisory Bulletin. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks (25).
- Heifetz, J.; Clausen, D.M. (1991). "Slope rockfish". Stock assessment and fishery evaluation report for the 1992 Gulf of Alaska groundfish fishery. N. Pac. Fish. Manage. Counc., Anchorage, Alaska.: 5:1–5:30.
- Barber, Elizabeth (3 July 2013). "200-year-old rockfish caught off Alaska coast". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
- Sebastes spp
- Encyclopedia.com Archived April 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. (Heifetz report archived at Wayback Machine)
- Hesse, Tom (25 June 2013). "Record-Sized Rockfish May Also be the Oldest". Daily Sitka Sentinel. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
- Century-old fish found off Alaska BBC News, 2007-04-06. Retrieved 2007-04-07.
- The Sideshow (July 2, 2013). "Man catches 200-year-old, 40-pound fish". News.Yahoo.com. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
- Photo in the News: Century-Old Fish Caught in Alaska National Geographic, 2007-04-06. Retrieved 2007-04-07
- Joling, Dan (2007-04-06). "Fishermen catch big, old Alaska rockfish". Yahoo! News. Yahoo! Inc. Archived from the original on 2007-04-08. Retrieved 2007-04-09.
- Pooch, Andrew (5 July 2013). "Record "Old" Rockfish Aged at 64 Years". Angling Unlimited.