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- Seafood Profile
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- Sustainability Summary
Pacific sanddab are available year-round, but with less frequency in the winter. Their meat is sweet, but the skin is savory. It has a similar taste to trout. The skin is said to taste like french fries. Pacific sanddab are sold fresh or frozen whole or filleted.
Health & Nutrition
- Total Fat1.30g
Pacific sanddab is the largest of the four sanddab species, growing up to 40 cm (16 inches) in length, although most are found to be about 25 cm (10 inches) long. Their eyes are always on the left side of their body, making them left “handed.” The species is distinguishable from other flatfish by their nearly straight midline on their back. Their eyed side is a dull brown, tan, yellow, and orange color mottled with irregular dark spots. Their blind side is white to pale brown.
The fish matures relatively quickly compared to other flatfish, at about two to three years old, and have a comparatively shorter lifespan, at 9-10 years. Like most sanddabs and other flatfish, Pacific sanddabs can change color and pattern to camouflage to their surroundings and are mostly found burrowed in the sand with only their eyes showing.
Their spawning season peaks July through September, and they spawn more than once in a season. They will pair with one mate at a time, using external fertilization. Differences in water temperature may result in varied timing each year, as Pacific sanddab prefer to spawn in cooler waters. The eggs and larvae float with the current for about five months, until their body has taken shape. They are born with eyes on either side of their head, and as they grow one eye moves to the other side and they begin swimming on their sides permanently.
Pacific sanddab eat small fish, squid and octopus, shrimp and crab, eggs, and marine worms. Predators of Pacific sanddab include a variety of fish like sharks, rays, and halibut. Marine mammals and birds will also eat them. Because of their variety of prey and predators, Pacific sanddab play an important role in connecting trophic levels within its ecosystem.
Pacific sanddab are found along the Eastern Pacific, from the West Coast of North America from the Bering Sea in the Gulf of Alaska down to Cape San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico. Their range also extends westward into the Sea of Japan. They are most abundant off north-central California and Southern California.
Pacific sanddab can be found on the seafloor and prefer sandy and muddy bottoms. They often hide in the soft seafloor to camouflage from predators. They inhabit waters from 30 to 1,800 ft deep (9 to 549 m) and are commonly found at depths between 164 to 492 ft (50 to 150 m). Juveniles are common in shallower waters and occasionally can be found in tide pools.
Migration patterns are poorly known, though they are thought to migrate between winter spawning grounds and summer feeding grounds similar to other flatfish species.
Very little is known about the biology and status of Pacific sanddab, and there are many problems with past biological studies including uncertain trawl catch data, and uncertainties about the scale of population, stocks, and biomass. The first stock assessment was done in 2013; however, lack of age composition and individual length data both historically and presently creates problems when studying the Pacific sanddab by exposing the uncertainties already associated with the species and limiting the accuracy of the results.
Future research and data needs include:
- Catch and discard rates
- Length composition
- Reproductive biology data, mainly in the US West Coast and Canada
- Genetic studies on stock structure
NOAA Fisheries and Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) manage the Pacific sanddab fishery in California, Oregon, and Washington under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Implemented in 1982, the FMP covers over 90 species including rockfish, skates, and other flatfish caught off the US West Coast. The US commercial groundfish fishery is comprised of three components: Limited Entry (LE), Open Access (OA), and Nearshore (NS). The LE and OA sectors are managed by the PFMC while the NS sector is jointly managed by the PFMC and the states of Oregon and California.
Pacific sanddab populations along the US West Coast are considered healthy and have been increasing in recent years. The fishery is considered well-managed due to measures such as:
- Limited entry program – limiting the number of commercial fishing permits available
- Minimum size and total catch limits
- Seasonal and closed areas to protect sensitive habitats
- Vessel monitoring system to ensure vessels are complying with closed areas
- Gear restrictions
Beginning in 2011, LE trawl permit holders were allowed to participate in a catch share program. Participants in the program received an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) of the total catch of the 29 commercial species/species complexes along the US West Coast. Fishers participating in the program can fish their quota at any time during the season and can use non-trawl gear to catch their quota shares. Whereas non-IFQ fisheries have varying levels of at-sea observer coverage, the catch share program requires 100% at-sea and dockside monitoring. The California Groundfish Collective comprises 11 fishing operations that have entered into an agreement to pool members’ IFQs.
Impact on Stock
Pacific sanddab are rarely the sole target for any given fishery. Populations on the US West Coast are currently healthy and have been increasing in recent years. There is little concern about the stock, which is estimated at about 96% of its unfished level in 2013, well below the management level for flatfish. The harvest rate has steadily declined over the last decade.
Most Pacific sanddab are caught using bottom trawl, which can damage the seafloor. However, the fishing occurs on sandy and gravel habitats which minimizes gear impacts.
Bycatch in the US West Coast groundfish fishery, which includes Pacific sanddab, is low, and is carefully managed through spatial and gear restrictions.
Pacific sanddab management on the US West Coast is considered strong and management measures include:
- 100% observer coverage on trawlers
- Gear restrictions
- Catch share program
|A&R Seafood Company||United States||California|
|Beaver Street Fisheries, Inc.||United States||Florida|
|Hallmark Fisheries, Inc.||United States||Oregon|
|Lusamerica Foods, Inc.||United States||California|
|Monterey Fish Market||United States||California|
|Morning Star Fisheries LLC||United States||California|
|Northeast Seafood Products, Inc.||United States||Colorado|
|Pacific Harvest Seafoods||United States||California|
|Pioneer Seafoods||United States||California|
|Robbie's Ocean Fresh Seafood, Inc.||United States||California|
|Sea to Table, USA||United States||New York|
- Seafood Watch Program