Pacific Harvestfish

Pacific Harvestfish, Peprilus medius

The Pacific Harvestfish, Peprilus medius, whose common Spanish name is palometa, is a member of the Butterfish or Stromateidae Family, known collectively as palometas in Mexico. There are only seven global members of the genus Peprilus, six of which are found in Mexican waters, two in the Atlantic and four in the Pacific.

The Pacific Harvestfish have elongated oval bodies that are strongly compressed and relatively deep with a depth that is 48 to 64% of standard length. They are a uniform silvery white color. They have a small oblique mouth that ends before the eyes and a short blunt snout. Their eyes have a fatty ring around them. Their anal and dorsal fins have long bases with long, curved and pointed front lobes. Their anal fin has two spines and 38 to 46 rays; their caudal fin is deeply forked; their dorsal fin has 3 spines and 42 to 48 rays; and their pectoral fins are long and pointed with 22 or 23 rays. They are devoid of pelvic fins. They have 23 to 27 gill rakers and 33 to 35 vertebrae. Their lateral line is high and follows the upper body profile. They are covered with small scales.

The Pacific Harvestfish are found over sandy bottoms in coastal waters at depths up to 125 feet. They reach a maximum length of 33 cm (13 inches). They feed on benthic mobile invertebrates. Reproduction is oviparous with external fertilization with pelagic eggs and larvae. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Pacific Harvestfish are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from the entire west coast of Baja.

The Pacific Harvestfish can be easily confused with the Pacific Pompano, Peprilus simillimus (snout greater in length than the eye diameter; front lobe of anal fin short) and the Salema Butterfish, Peprilus synderi (snout equal in length to the eye diameter; front lobe of anal fin short).

From a conservation perspective the Pacific Harvestfish has a wide distribution and are abundant in some locations. They are not a targeted species by commercial or recreational fishermen and are currently considered to be of Least Concern. They are used for human consumption in some parts of Latin America and as a bait fish.

Pacific Harvestfish, Peprilus medius. Fish caught from coastal waters off Mazatlán, Sinaloa, October 2017. Length: 26 cm (10 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.