Release the Canaries?

By Bob Friel and Joe Gaydos

A school of Canary Rockfish. Photo by NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

A school of Canary Rockfish. Photo by NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed to delist the Puget Sound / Georgia Basin Canary Rockfish (Sebastes pinniger) from the list of threatened species under the US Endangered Species Act. The delisting isn’t based on an increase in the Rockfish population, but on the results of recent genetic findings that show our local canaries are genetically the same as those living on the Washington coast and that they’re not, as previously thought, a Distinct Population Segment (DPS). Incidentally, Canary Rockfish on the Pacific Coast were considered overfished in 2000 and thanks to a rebuilding plan, were determined to be "rebuilt" in 2015.

Similar testing showed that Yelloweye Rockfish (S. ruberrimus) within the Salish Sea are different from those on the coast and thus form a DPS. Not enough Boccacio (S. paucispinis) could be sampled to determine if it is a DPS. Since both Yelloweye and Boccaccio Rockfish remain protected under the ESA, delisting canaries will have no effect on the stringent fishing regulations put in place to try and recover all our local Rockfish species.

After reviewing the supplementary scientific information provided by NOAA, SeaDoc submitted a formal comment in support of this decision (acknowledging that the science supports the decisions being made). Comments are due Sept. 6, 2016.  Click here to read the details of the science behind this proposed rule change and/or to submit a formal comment.