Bocaccio, Sebastes paucispinis
The Bocaccio, Sebastes paucispinis, whose common Spanish name is rocote bocaccio, is a member of the Rockfishes and Scorpionfishes or Scorpaenidae Family, known collectively as escorpiónes or lapóns in Mexico. Globally, there are one hundred twenty four species in the genus Sebastes, forty nine of which are found in Mexican waters, all in the Pacific.
The Bocaccios have relatively narrow oblong-shaped bodies with a depth that is 26 – 30% of standard length. They have a uniform coloration without markings which ranges from olive burnt-orange to brown dorsally and transitions to pinkish-red ventrally. All their fins are dark with the exception of their pelvic fins which are pale pink. Younger fish are light bronze with small brown spots on their sides. Older fish are darker than younger fish. They have a distinctively long jaw extending at least to the eyes. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 8 to 10 rays; their caudal fin has a slightly concave margin; their dorsal fin has 13 or 14 spines and 13 to 15 rays; their pectoral fins have 14 to 17 rays; and they have 27 to 32 gill rakers. Their body is covered with scales.
The Bocaccios reside over and within rocky bottoms and outcroppings at depths between 40 and 1,580 feet. They reach a maximum length of 91 cm (36 inches) and weight of 6.8 kg (15 pounds), with females being larger than males. Adults are found in deeper waters than juveniles. They feed on anchovies, lanternfish, rockfish, sablefish, and squid. Females generate between 20,000 and 2 million eggs per year. They have a lifespan of at least 50 years.
In Mexican waters the Bocaccio have a very limited distribution being found from Cedros Island northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.
The Bocaccio cannot be confused with any other species due to its color, body shape, and long projecting snout.
Bocaccios have been fished commercially for many years. Historically they were also a targeted species of recreational anglers. However, the long term survival of the Bocaccios is currently of concern and being addressed. They are a slow growing species that matures late and is long lived. As fishing pressures have increased populations have declined and the Bocaccios are now the subject of enhanced catch regulations. For example, in the Puget Sound of Washington State, they are now considered an Endangered Species and thus heavily regulated. They are considered a marginal food fish.
Bocaccio, Sebastes paucispinis, juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Long Beach, California, August 2016. Length: 13.4 cm (5.3 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL. Identification reconfirmed by Milton Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.
Bocaccio, Sebastes paucispinis. Fish caught from coastal waters off Ejido Eréndira, Baja California, February 2015. Length: 36 cm (14 inches). Photo courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto, Baja California Sur.