Selected tag(s): Wreckfish

Occasional Series on Weird Seafood: Wreckfish

Wreckfish illustration SAFMC website
The restaurants of San Francisco and Charleston have one important thing in common: either place, you are likely to encounter a wonderfully flavorful and healthy fish choice on menus – wreckfish.

Wreckfish (Polyprion americanus) is a very widely distributed, deepwater fish found around canyons, escarpments and wrecks, as its name implies.  Juveniles associate with floating seaweed and debris, helping to distribute the animal around the world ocean as flotsam drifts.  Wreckfish may exceed six feet in length, and 200 pounds, with the oldest known individual aged at 81 years. 

Conservation is sorely lacking, with the exception of the U.S. South Atlantic region, where an innovative type of catch share called an “individual transferable quota” (ITQ) fishery management system was developed in 1991 and implemented in 1992.  ITQs allocate percentages of a scientifically-appropriate catch limit to fishermen, who may then sell or trade them within socially acceptable limits.  The wreckfish of the Pacific and Indian Oceans is a close relative; the only management system for that fish is also an ITQ, in New Zealand.

Wreckfish photo from NOAA's websiteThe wreckfish ITQ in the South Atlantic region has been a great success, pleasing both fishermen and conservationists alike. The only criticism has been of an apparent “under harvest” while fishermen have fished for other species.  I don’t think I have to explain how notable that is in this day of constant excesses! The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) is currently reviewing this fishery, including the overall quota, and possible management for a newly developing “deep drop” recreational fishery.  I am impressed with the Council’s management to date of the wreckfish, and am looking forward to their future steps on catch shares.

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