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COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Bocaccio in Canada

COSEWIC Status Report
on the
Sebastes paucispinis
in Canada

Species Information

Name and Classification

Bocaccio (Sebastes paucispinis Ayres, 1854) is a member of the order Scorpaeniformes and family Scorpaenidae. It is one of over 60 species of rockfish (Sebastes spp.) known to occur along the Pacific coast of North America (Eschmeyer et al. 1983). It is one of at least 35 species known to occur in British Columbia (B.C.) waters (Graham Gillespie, pers. comm. Appendix 1). Other common or market names include rock salmon, salmon rockfish, Pacific red snapper, Pacific snapper, Oregon red snapper, and Oregon snapper (Love et al. 2002). B.C. commercial fishers often call them longjaws.


Bocaccio is one of the largest of the rockfishes (Figs. Figure1 and Figure2). The principal field diagnostic of this species is the long maxillary (upper jaw) that extends to, or beyond, the orbit. There is some thickening of the lower jaw but no obvious symphyseal knob. Adult bocaccio range in colour from olive orange to burnt orange or brown on the dorsal surface, becoming pink to red ventrally. Specimens less than 25 cm in length are light bronze with small brown spots on their sides (see Moser 1967 and 1996 for a description of the larval stages). As the juveniles mature, their colour darkens and the spots disappear. It is quite common for adult bocaccio and other rockfish to develop black, melanistic blotches (Fig. 2). These have been suggested to be a pre-cancerous melanoma (Love et al. 2002).

Figure 1: Line Drawing of Bocaccio

Figure 1: Line drawing of Bocaccio (from Hart 1973).  

From Hart 1973.

Figure 2: Pictures of Adult Bocaccio (photo archives, Groundfish Section, Science Branch, Pacific Region)

Figure 2: Pictures of adult bocaccio by Steve Sviatko, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Steve Sviatko, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Figure 2: Pictures of adult bocaccio by Terri Bonnet, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Terri Bonnet, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Nationally Significant Population

In this report, we treat B.C. bocaccio as one evolutionarily significant unit (ESU). U.S. research indicates a genetic difference between Southern California and Washington populations (MacCall et al. 1999). However, there has been no study of genetic structure yet conducted within B.C. waters. Our hypothesis of a single ESU is based on presumed dispersal during the planktonic phase, movements by juveniles, and possible continuous distribution of adults along the outer coast. However, we have no genetic data to test this hypothesis. The Strait of Georgia might contain a self-perpetuating population, as this area is distinct from the outer coast, but we lack data to determine or refute this.