Canary rockfish (Puget Sound/Georgia Basin DPS) (Sebastes pinniger)

Canary Rockfish
Canary rockfish
Category: Fish
Related species groups: Rockfish
State status: Candidate
Federal status: Threatened
Vulnerability to climate change (More details)


Caught incidentally in the commercial fishery off the Washington coast with otter-trawls, longline, and jig handline gear.

State record

WeightAnglerLocationDate Caught
10.57 lbs Ben Phillips Neah Bay August 30, 1986

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Description and Range

Physical description

Canary rockfish have an elongate, moderately deep and compressed body form. Adults are yellow orange, with gray mottling on the back and a grey or near white background. They have three bright orange diagonal stripes across their head, including on either side of their eye. The fins are yellow orange, and the anal fin is pointed with a rear edge that slants anteriorly. The caudal fin is strongly indented. In smaller individuals (less than 14 in), there is often a black spot near the back of the first dorsal fin. The canary rockfish resembles the vermilion rockfish, however captured individuals can be distinguished based on the lack of scales on the lower jaw of the canary. The underside of the lower jaw of the canary rockfish feels smooth when rubbed from back to front. Canary and vermillion are easily confused under water. The vermillion has fins edged in black, the rear edge of the anal fin is rounded and vertical, and the caudal fin is slightly indented with rounded tips.

Canary rockfish can grow up to 76 cm (30 in) in length. Maximum age is 84 years old.

Geographic range

Canary rockfish are found from the Gulf of Alaska south of Shelikof Strait, Alaska, to Cape Colnett, Baja California. Young fish tend to be found in shallower water depths than adults. Adults are most common at water depths from 80-200 m (254-660 ft), but have been found at depths of up to 838 m (2,765 ft).  This species is typically associated with pinnacles and high relief rocks often in areas with high current, though they are occasionally encountered over open mud flats.

Climate vulnerability

Sensitivity to climate change


The main sensitivity of canary rockfish to climate change is likely to stem from changes to their prey base. Warmer ocean conditions could lead to decreases in prey (e.g., copepods, crustaceans, euphausiid eggs) for both juveniles and adults, prompting decreases in adult fecundity and juvenile survival. Additionally, nearshore habitat loss due to sea level rise could impact juvenile survival, as juveniles tend to use nearshore habitat as nursery and foraging area. Deepwater coral habitat, which many adult rockfish use, may also decrease due to acidification, further reducing available habitat. Decreased oxygen levels may have direct physiological effects on canary rockfish, leading to higher levels of mortality across various life stages. Due to their long life cycles and generation times, adults may be able to persist through short term pulses of negative ocean conditions (e.g., years with warmer sea surface temperature), though conversely, their low productivity could make it difficult for populations to recover from climate-related declines.

Confidence: Moderate

Exposure to climate change


  • Increased ocean temperatures
  • Sea level rise
  • Declines in pH
  • Decreased oxygen
Confidence: Moderate


Rules and Seasons

The Puget Sound and Georgia Basin populations of canary rockfish are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and recreational retention in Puget Sound waters is prohibited.


This species is identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) under the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). SGCN-classified species include both those with and without legal protection status under the Federal or State Endangered Species programs, as well as game species with low populations. The WDFW SWAP is part of a nationwide effort by all 50 states and five U.S. territories to develop conservation action plans for fish, wildlife and their natural habitats—identifying opportunities for species' recovery before they are imperiled and more limited.
This species is identified as a Priority Species under WDFW's Priority Habitat and Species Program. Priority species require protective measures for their survival due to their population status, sensitivity to habitat alteration, and/or recreational, commercial, or tribal importance. The PHS program is the agency's main means of sharing fish and wildlife information with local governments, landowners, and others who use it to protect priority habitats for land use planning.