Baby Bocaccio are a light bronze colour, with brown spots. Adult Bocaccio are orange-red or olive-brown in colour. These fish have a large mouth and a knob that protrudes off their lower jaw. ‘Bocaccio’ actually means ‘large mouth’ in Italian! They can grow to be about 90cm (3 ft) long.
Note: Bocaccio are often mislabeled as red snapper, Pacific snapper and rock cod in markets and restaurants.
RANGE & HABITAT
The Bocaccio is one of at least 39 types of rockfish found in the coastal ocean waters of B.C. Bocaccio rockfish live all along the coast of the northern Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of Alaska to Baja California, Mexico. In many of these areas the species has suffered from overfishing. They spend their whole lives in one area, often within the same community or “school.” They do not migrate
Young Bocaccio live near the surface of the ocean in a ‘nursery’ area, often in kelp beds or rocky reefs. Living near the surface keeps the young fish close to good food sources and calm waters. Once they grow, Bocaccio feel at home in deep water between 60 and 340m below the ocean surface. They live along rocky ocean bottoms, including coral reefs! These areas are filled with rich and diverse underwater plant and fish communities.
Trawling (dragging a net along the bottom of the ocean and pulling up whatever the net catches) and warming oceans caused by climate change are harming these places, making it challenging for Bocaccio to thrive in a safe home.
Unlike most boney fish that lay eggs to reproduce, rockfish fertilize and grow embryos inside the body, and females give birth to live fish! Bocaccio rockfish can live up to 57 years. Other species of rockfish can live up to 200 years! Bocaccio don’t start reproducing until later in life. Late reproduction means that they are often killed by predators or human impacts before they have a chance to reproduce. In this species, the oldest fish have the most potential to reproduce, so when humans catch and kill them, it is very harmful to the population.
Chinook Salmon, terns and Harbor Seals rely on smaller Bocaccio as a source of food. Other beings that rely on larger adult Bocaccio as a food source are larger fishes and marine mammals like Harbor Seals and Northern Elephant Seals.
Bocaccio fit into the food chain by eating smaller fish. This can include anchovies, mackerel, squid and even other rockfish!
TRADITIONAL USES BY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Rockfish are an important food source for many coastal First Nations. Unlike trawling, spears and hook-and-line fishing practices used by Indigenous Peoples protect the home of the rockfish while still making use of the fish as a food source.
IUCN: Critically endangered
Learn about the Rockfish Conservation Area closest to you at: https://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/maps-cartes/rca-acs/index-eng.html Read about traditional
Indigenous fishing practices and rockfish species here: http://traditionalanimalfoods.org/fish/saltwater/page.aspx?id=6436
PHOTO: Monterey Bay Aquarium