Salema Butterfish

Salema Butterfish, Peprilus snyderi

The Salema Butterfish, Peprilus snyderi, whose common Spanish name is palometa salema, is a member of the Butterfish or Stromateidae Family, known collectively in Mexico as palometas. This fish is also known as the Shortfin Butterfish. 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 Salema Butterfish have deep oval strongly compressed bodies with a depth that is 42 to 50% of standard length. They are a uniform bluish-silver color. They have a small oblique mouth that ends before the eyes and a short blunt snout that is equal to the diameter of the eyes (a key to identification). Their eyes have a fatty ring around them. Their lower jaw projects beyond the upper jaw and their teeth on both jaws are very small. Their anal and dorsal fins have long bases with front lobes that are only slightly raised in a blunt point; their anal fin is much lower than the dorsal fin. Their anal fin has two spines and 40 to 44 rays; their caudal fin is deeply forked; their dorsal fin has 3 spines and 45 to 48 rays; and their pectoral fins are long and pointed. They do not have pelvic fins. They have 23 to 26 gill rakers and 36 vertebrae. Their lateral line is high and follows the upper body profile. They are covered with small scales.

The Salema Butterfish are normally found in shallow waters over soft bottoms of coastal areas including river mouths at depths up to 470 feet. They reach a maximum length of 44 cm (17 inches). They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Salema Butterfish are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.

The Salema Butterfish is very similar to the Gulf Butterfish, Perrilus burti (snout less than eye diameter), the Pacific Harvestfish, Peprilus medius (long anal and dorsal front fin lobes), and virtually identical to the Pacific Pompano, Peprilus simillimus (30 or 31 vertebrae). The latter is found in the same geographic areas, thus X-ray is required to distinguish the two fish.

The Salema Butterfish is relatively small in stature. They are rare and not a significant targeted commercial or recreational species.

Salema Butterfish, Peprilus snyderi. Fish provided by the Commercial Fishermen of the Greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, June 2012. Length: 24 cm (9.4 inches). This species is also sold commercially by the Ranch 99 Market in San Diego with the fish originating from “Ecuador”. Identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.