What is an Ocean Perch?

J.L. Drede

The ocean perch is a saltwater fish found in northern Pacific ocean. It is from the Sebastidae family of fish and its scientific name is Sebastes alutus. It is also sometimes referred to as the Pacific ocean perch, or simply POP.

The ocean perch is found mostly in the waters off the coast of Japan.
The ocean perch is found mostly in the waters off the coast of Japan.

The range of the ocean perch is mostly limited to the coasts of Japan and the Bering Sea, to shores of Alaska down to northern California. The depth range of the fish can vary, and it has been found both on the surface of the ocean waters and as deep as 2,700 feet (822 meters). It is most often found at depths between 540 and 960 feet (165 and 293 meters). Whatever the depth, the perch prefers colder waters, usually around 42 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius). The fish is usually found in schools.

Ocean perch are a profitable target for commercial fishermen.
Ocean perch are a profitable target for commercial fishermen.

The ocean perch is pink, and has small spines across its back. Usually it grows to about 20 inches (50 cm) in length and weighs around 4.6 pounds (2.1 kg). The fish survives mostly on a diet of krill and copepods. Larger fish of the species have also been known to eat shrimp and other fish, such as flatfish, and smelt. Its main predators are sablefish and halibut. Cod, arrowtooth flounder and other large fish have also been known to feed on the perch as well.

The lifespan of the ocean perch is very long, close to 100 years. The fish reaches maturity after about five to nine years. After that point it will spawn every fall, with the eggs hatching in early spring. The females of the species can lay up to 300,000 eggs in a lifetime.

While not a popular fish for aquarium enthusiasts or game fishermen, the ocean perch is extensively fished by commercial fishermen. Commercial fishing of the ocean perch was so extensive for a time that populations declined to a dangerous level. However, since 2003 measures have been put into place to prevent overfishing. These have largely been successful and have resulted in healthy populations of the perch returning throughout much of its natural habitat.

Even with the controls in place, ocean perch remain a very profitable catch for commercial fishermen. In 2008 more than 75 million pounds (34 million kg) of the fish were caught, bringing in an estimated value of more than $15 million. The ocean perch is a valued fish not only for its taste, but also for its nutritional value. It is very low in saturated fat, and high in vitamin B12.

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Discussion Comments


I stopped eating ocean perch a several years ago when the perch population was declining. It's nice to hear that protections were put into place to help this fish repopulate.

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