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Sebastes mystinus - Blue rockfish

Geographic range:
From Bering Sea, Alaska to Punta Santo Tomas, Baja California

Key features:
A juvenile Sebastes mystinus has light blue body with brick red zig-zags. Adults are blue with dark mottling, and have 2 or more sloped bars from the eye back to the gill cover. Rear edge of anal fin is straight.

Similar species:
Sebastes melanops -- Black rockfish

bay (rocky shore), bay (sandy shore), kelp forest
Sebastes mystinus - Blue rockfish image


Primary common name:
Blue Rockfish
  ITIS code:
Synonymous name(s):
General grouping:
Bony fishes

Geographic Range
Range description:
Sebastes mystinus occur from the Bering Sea, Alaska to Punta Santo Tomas, Baja California.
Northern latitude extent:
  Southern latitude extent:
East longitude extent:
  West longitude extent:

Intertidal Height
Lowest intertidal height:
0 meters OR 0 feet
  Highest intertidal height:
0 meters OR 0 feet
Intertidal height notes:

Subtidal Depth Range
Minimum depth:
0 meters OR 0 feet
  Maximum depth:
10 meters OR 0 feet
Subtidal depth notes:
Juveniles are common here down to 10 m, adults can be found as well.

bay (rocky shore), bay (sandy shore), kelp forest
Habitat notes:
Sebastes mystinus lives most commonly in Oregon and California waters. Records of blue rockfish in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea probably refer to the related dusky rockfish, Sebastes ciliatus.

Schooling Sebastes mystinus are usually found off the bottom over reefs, kelp beds, and pinnacles from 0-600 m deep, with the majority of fish living near the surface down to 90 m. Sebastes mystinus are rarely found in sheltered waters. In kelp beds, adults form both loose and compact aggregations and are commonly mixed with black rockfish, Sebastes melanops and can also be seen with olive rockfish, Sebastes serranoides. Juveniles are pelagic and can be found in the shallow kelp canopy, rocky areas and nearshore sand-rock interface in less than 10 m of water. Sebastes mystinus commonly rest on the bottom at night.

Relative abundance:
Sebastes mystinus is the most common rockfish off Callifornia.

Species Description
General description:
Sebastes mystinus is in the class Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes), order Scorpaeniformes (scorpionfishes and flatheads), Sebastidae family (rockfishes, rockcods, and thornyheads), and the Sebastinae subfamily.
Distinctive features:
Sebastes mystinus has a fusifrom, deep, elongate and compressed body. The coloring is dark bluish black to gray with light blue mottling. The pectoral fins are large and the dorsal fins are joined, deeply notched and unmottled. Sebastes mystinus snout is somewhat pointed, with a small mouth (maxilla does not reach the rear of the eye), vague dark bars across the forehead, and small eye diameter. The rear edge of the anal fin is straight or slightly indented. Sebastes mystinus has up to four pairs of weak head spines. The juvenile Sebastes mystinus can be recognized by its light blue body spotted with brick red.
Sebastes mystinus can grow to be 61 cm in length and weight 3.8 kg. Young of the year recruits are 3 to 3.6 cm.

Natural History
General natural history:
The maximum reported age for Sebastes mystinus is 44 years.

Movement and migration studies demonstrate that Sebastes mystinus is residential.

Sebastes mystinus, and most other bony fishes, adjust their buoyancy with a swim bladder which they inflate with gases, mostly oxygen. These fish also utilize their lateral line organ, an neural line along each side of the head and body that detects pressure changes. This organ permits the fish to swim in schools as well as to detect predators.
At one time Sebastes mystinus was usually the most abundant rockfish in the catches of charter boat and skiff anglers off California. This is no longer true due to declines in the population caused by overfishing.

Adult Sebastes mystinus are subject to predation by other rockfish, lingcod, sharks, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. Young Sebastes mystinus are important food for fishes, particularly other rockfish, lingcod, cabezon, salmon, marine birds, porpoises, and other marine invertebrates.
Sebastes mystinus feeds on small crustaceans, krill, jellyfishes, pelagic tunicates, gastropods, algae, squids, and small fishes in the midwater. Juveniles eat tiny crustacean, such as copepods and barnacle larvae.

Feeding behavior
Feeding behavior(s):
Feeding behavior notes:
Sebastes mystinus is an aggressive feeder and often churns the surface waters when hunting as a school.

Since Sebastes mystinus has a small mouth and long gill rakesr, it can be an effective predator on plankton. Its long gut and unusually long and numberous absorptive villi in the stomach likely allow it to digest algae efficiently. The diet of Sebastes mystinus overlaps very little with that of other rockfish.
October - December  
Sebastes mystinus mates in October, but the embryos do not begin to develop until December when the eggs are fertilized by stored sperm.

January - January  
Embryos develop inside female Sebastes mystinus and hatch immediately when released into the water. The larval fish spend several weeks as part of the plankton community. It is believed that Sebastes mystinus spawn once a year.

February - March  
Larval are planktonic, and may be carried many kilometers by ocean currents.

April - May  
Young of the year Sebastes mystinus begin to appear in the kelp canopy and shallow rocky areas.
Alden, P., F. Heath, R. Keen, A. Leventer, and W. Zomlefer. 2002. National Audubon Society Field Guide to California. A.A. Knopf, New York, NY.

Boschung, H.T., J.D. Williams, D.W. Gotshall, D.K. Caldwell, and M.C. Caldwell. 1998. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Fishes, Whales and Dolphins. A.A. Knoph, New York, NY. 848 p.

Eschmeyer, W.N., and E.S. Herald. 1983. A Field Guide to Pacific Coast Fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA. 336 p.

Froese, R. and D. Pauly (eds.). 2006 (Updated 01/02/06). FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication., Accessed [04/25/06].

Gotshall, D. 2001. Pacific Coast Inshore Fishes. Sea Challengers, Monterey, CA. 117 p.

Hallacher, L.E. and D.A. Roberts. 1985. Differential utilization of space and food by the inshore rockfishes (Scorpaenidae: Sebastes) of Carmel Bay, California. Environmental Biology of Fishes 12(2): 91-110.

Humann, P. 1996. Coastal fish identification : California to Alaska. New World Publications, Jacksonville, FL. 205 p.

Kramer, D.E., and V.M. O’Connell. 1988. Guide to Northeast Pacific Rockfishes Genera Sebastes and Sebastolobus. University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK. 78 p.

Lamb, A. and P. Edgell. 1986. Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest. Harbor Publishing, Madeira Park, BC, Canada. 224 p.

Langstroth, L. and L. Langstroth. 2000. A Living Bay: The Underwater World of Monterey Bay. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA. 287 p.

State of California. 2003. California Department of Fish and Game, Marine Region, Nearshore Finfish Profiles. World Wide Web electronic publication., Accessed [09/30/06].

Data supplied by SIMoN Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Anthopleura xanthogrammica - Giant green anemone

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