Golden redfish

Golden redfish


Golden Redfish

Illustration: Jón Baldur Hlíðberg


Golden redfish fishing grounds in 2011 (t/nm2), all gear combined, dark areas indicate highest catches.

Source: The Marine Research Institute


Golden redfish catch (t) in Icelandic waters

Source: ICES, Statistics Iceland, the Marine Research Institute


Demersal redfish catch (t) by month

Source: Statistics Iceland, weight reports


Demersal redfish catch (t) by fishing gear

Source: Statistics Iceland, weight reports


Golden redfish total biomass indices in the Icelandic groundfish survey in March and October, shaded areas and vertical lines show one standard deviation in the estimates

Source: The Marine Research Institute


Redfish (all stocks) catch (t) by type of processing

Source: Statistics Iceland, processing reports


Value of exported redfish (all stocks) products by main countries in 2011 (FOB million ISK)

Source: Statistics Iceland

Scientific: Sebastes marinus. English: Redfish, golden redfish, red ocean perch. Icelandic: Karfi, gullkarfi. For For more languages see the Marine Animal Dictionary.

Biology and distribution

The golden redfish is one of the most common and commercially important fish in Icelandic waters. It is commonly from 35 to 40 cm long in catches, but exceptionally large individuals of up to 100 cm and 15 kg have been measured. These huge individuals are often called centennial redfishes as they are probably very old. It is however possible that these very large redfishes belong to a different stock, or even species, than the common golden redfish.

Growth is very slow and maturity is only reached at the age of 12 to 15 when the fish is around 35 cm long. Redfish mate in early winter; the female carries the sperm and eggs, and later larvae that are hatched in April/May in remote areas in the southwest. The fry stays near the bottom off East Greenland and at the edge of the Icelandic continental shelf. All the redfish species primarily feed on zooplankton, but also on small fishes such as capelin. The single most important food group, however, is the krill.

Golden redfish is found all around Iceland on various bottom types, but off the north coast mainly juveniles are found. It is both found close to the bottom and in the water column (usually at night) and can therefore be classified as benthopelagic. The main fishing grounds, as well as the main adult grounds, are at the edge of the continental shelf at 200 to 400 m depth south and west of Iceland. The golden redfish is found along the coast of North America from Cape Cod to Newfoundland, in southern Greenlandic waters, around Iceland, the Faroe Islands, in the Northern part of the North Sea, along the coast of Norway and in the southern part of the Barents Sea.

For information on factors that are shared by all the redfish species and also on comparison between the species, see the main category relating to redfishes.

Catch and fishing gear

The fishery for golden redfish is primarily along the shelf edge from southeast to northwest of Iceland. It is likely that redfish catches in Icelandic waters until around 1980 were predominantly golden redfish, since it is very common and lives in shallower waters than the other species. After 1950 the total catches in Icelandic waters were around 150,000 tonnes but declined to the level of 80,000 to 100,000 tonnes from about 1955 to 1988. Icelandic boats also caught a considerable quantity of redfish in distant waters, primarily off Eastern Greenland and Newfoundland. The catches of golden redfish in Icelandic waters have declined further to about 40,000 tonnes due to management measures in recent years. However, this decline has been more than compensated for by increased catches of deep sea and oceanic redfish.

Until foreign fleets were expelled from Icelandic waters, the majority of the catches in Icelandic waters were by the West German fishing fleet, as the redfish is a popular food fish in Germany. After the expulsion of foreign fleets, the Icelandic boats increased their catch as markets for redfish opened up in Germany and this is still the largest single market for Icelandic redfish.

The golden redfish is fished all year round but the fishing is often best in late winter. It is almost exclusively carried out with bottom trawls.

A great deal of caution is needed in the harvesting of redfish stocks since recruitment to the fishable stock is slow for these species. There are no proven scientific methods for assessment of stock size and research is hampered by stock dispersion over a large area and uncertainty in age determination. It is clear, however, that the redfish stocks have been under intensive fishing pressure in recent times and that the stocks recover is slow.

Stock status

See the Marine Research institute

Processing and markets

Initially the redfish was not of much value for Icelanders and was probably discarded in cod fisheries. Later they were retained but were only processed into fish meal and oil. Eventually the redfish began to gain respect as a good food fish.

About half of the catch is processed and frozen at sea, the rest is iced and exported fresh in containers or by air. A considerable, but declining, part is iced at sea and processed and frozen after landing. The main market for the redfish from Icelandic waters has usually been Germany. A significant proportion is also exported to other Western European countries. An increasing share of the catch has been exported to eastern Asia, so that Japan is now the largest buyer of golden redfish.

References and further information

Hreiðar Þór Valtýsson, University of Akureyri