California Fisheries Atlas - Nearshore Finfish

Updated June 2008

Back to list of Fish Profiles


19 finfish species

rockfish, gopherRockfish, gopher (Sebastes carnatus); rockfish, blackRockfish, black (S. melanops); rockfish, black and yellowRockfish, black-and-yellow (S. chrysomelas); rockfish, blueRockfish, blue (S. mystinus); rockfish, kelp Rockfish, kelp (S. atrovirens); rockfish, copperRockfish, copper (S. caurinus); rockfish, grassRockfish, grass (S. rastrelliger); rockfish, brownRockfish, brown (S. auriculatus); rockfish, quillbackRockfish, quillback (S. maliger); rockfish, chinaRockfish, china (S. nebulosus); rockfish, calicoRockfish, calico (S. dallii); treefishTreefish (S. serriceps); rockfish, oliveRockfish, olive (S. serranoides); cabezonCabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus); california sheepheadCalifornia sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher); california scorpionfishCalifornia scorpionfish (Scorpaena guttata); kelp greenlingKelp greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus); rock greenlingRock greenling (Hexagrammos lagocephalus); monkeyface pricklebackMonkeyface prickleback (Cebidichthys violaceus)

Life history (biology, habitat, range)

Some species long-lived, late reproducers

Often associated with kelp forests, rocky reefs

See full life history descriptions in Appendix D of California Nearshore FMP:

Also see Appendix B, Part 2 of Federal Groundfish FMP – Groundfish Life History Descriptions available:

Stock assessment status

Black rockfish assessed 2003: healthy

CA sheephead assessed 2004: unresolved (data concerns)

Kelp greenling assessed 2005: not approved (data concerns)

Cabezon assessed 2005: healthy in North, precautionary in South

Gopher rockfish assessed 2005: very healthy

CA scorpionfish assessed 2005: very healthy

Blue rockfish assessed 2007: data poor; suggests precautionary


Some species appear to be long-lived, late reproducers; stock status for most unknown; total recreational take considerable but exact amount unknown

Protected/declared species interactions

None known

Potential incidental catch of weak groundfish stocks



Gear types

Trap and Hook and line; possibly some trawl outside state waters

Stick gear for live fish market

Gear specifications

Trap gear endorsement necessary for taking nearshore fish by trap (66 issued in 2006)

General trap permit conditions apply (e.g. marking buoy, destruct device to mitigate ghost fishing)

No more than 150 hooks per boat; no more than 15 hooks per line

Associated conservation concerns


Unknown impacts on kelp forest ecosystem

Weak stocks mixed with healthy or unassessed populations

Some bycatch but may be minimal with hook and line and trap

Management, commercial


State F&G Commission and Federal PFMC for 16 of 19 species


California State Nearshore Fishery Management Plan; PFMC Groundfish FMP

FGC Code sections

FGC §§ 8585-8589.7 and 14 CCR §§ 52, 180, and 150-150.17


When FMP first came into force, all nearshore catch limits were based on half recent catch levels based on precautionary approach due to data-poor status; provisions are in place to allow transition to science-based catch limits as stock assessments are conducted and approved.

Commercial and recreational catch limits with bi-monthly trip limits set for state-managed species:

Cabezon – 152,100 lbs (39% commercial / 61% recreational)

CA Sheephead – 205,500 lbs (37% commercial / 63% recreational)

Greenlings – 37,600 lbs (9% commercial / 91% recreational)

Other species subject to federal OYs and trip limits

(see graphs below for finfish landings weight and revenue for 1997-2007)

Restricted access

RA first implemented in 1999 with 1184 permits

NFMP system began in 2003 with multiple classes of permits

Nearshore Fishery Permit (transferable) linked to one of four regions

Deeper Nearshore Fishery Permit (non-transferable)

Also trap endorsements and bycatch permits

Voluntary commercial logbook program

Fishery is still overcapitalized but commercial capacity has been drastically reduced

Statewide capacity goal for NFPs is 61 (current capacity is about double that – see participation below)

Beyond usual attrition mechanism, FMP specifies a two-for-one capacity reduction provision for nearshore permits

No capacity goal set for deeper nearshore

Current seasons, size limits, other restrictions

Season closed Mar-Apr

TAC in place for state-managed species (sheephead, cabezon, greenlings)

Bi-monthly trip limits (state and federal)

Minimum size limits for half of the nearshore species:

10” - black-and-yellow rockfish, CA scorpionfish, gopher rockfish, kelp rockfish

12” – grass rockfish, China rockfish, greenlings

13” – CA sheephead

15” – cabezon

Fishery closures/ MPAs

Recreational catch has exceeded catch limit often in recent years, shutting down fishery early

MLPA – 29 Central Coast network adopted; North Central region decision due soon

Federal Rockfish Conservation Areas

Proposed regulations

None formal – f/m in South Central interested in NFP permit stacking and some f/m statewide interested in making the deeper NFP transferable

Recreational component

53% of total catch in 1998; 69% of total catch in 2004

Which species


Gears fished

Hook and line


Various depending on state groundfish management area

May 2008 regulation restricting groundfish angling to waters less than 120’ depth in N California (north of Pigeon Point)

Generally bag limits for RCG (Rockfish, Cabezon, Greenling) complex is 10 fish

CA sheep head – bag limit 5; min size 12”

Cabezon – bag limit 1; min size 15”

Greenlings – bag limit 2; min size 12”

CA Scorpionfish – bag limit 5: min size 10”

RecFIN/ CRFS info

1998 total recreational landings = 1.9 million lbs (53% total statewide annual landings)

2004 total recreational landings = 1.2 million lbs (69% total statewide annual landings)

Social context

Participation statewide

185 nearshore permits; 239 deeper nearshore permits in 2007

2003-2006 average of 74% Shallow used; 71% Deeper used (CDFG June Council Agenda Item E.4.a.att2)

Participation by area

By Nearshore region, nearshore permits issued in 2007:

North – 26 where capacity goal is 14

N Central – 30 where capacity goal is 9

S Central – 64 where capacity goal is 20

South – 65 where capacity goal is 18

Fishing and trade organizations

CA Lobster and Trap Association

Seafood industry context

Product forms

Commercial live-market; processed

Seafood selector status

Rockfish by trawl is listed as poor choice

MSC certification status


Potential for value added

Live fish market potential likely improved with rationalized capacity and stable regulations



DFG Marine Region Nearshore Fishery Management Plan.  Accessed May 2008.

DFG Marine Region 2006.  NFMP Implementation Report.

DFG Marine Region 2001.  California’s Living Marine Resources: A Status Report.

Back to list of Fish Profiles