Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
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Species Database

Sebastes diaconus - Deacon rockfish

Deacon rockfish image

Geographic range:

British Columbia to central California

Key features:

Generally solid dark coloring, lacking large blotches and no dorsal spots.

Similar species:

Sebastes mystinus -- Blue rockfish
Sebastes melanops -- Black rockfish


bay (rocky shore), Continental shelf, exposed rocky shore, kelp forest, protected rocky shore

Primary common name:

Deacon rockfish

General grouping:

Bony fishes

ITIS code:


Geographic Range

Range Description:

Vancouver Island, BC to Morro Bay. The deacon rockfish is a more northern species, occupying Oregon, Washington and into Canada, possibly as far as Alaska. It overlaps with the blue rockfish from Newport, Oregon to northern California. The most southern record of a deacon rockfish is from Morro Bay.

Intertidal Height

Lowest intertidal height:

meters OR feet

Highest intertidal height:

meters OR feet

Intertidal height notes:

Not found in the intertidal, unless it is a deep pool, and then only occupied by young-of-the-year.

Subtidal Depth Range

Minimum depth:

4 meters OR 14 feet

Maximum depth:

549 meters OR 1800 feet

Subtidal depth notes:

In Oregon, deacon rockfish tend to be in deeper waters than the shallower blue rockfish.


bay (rocky shore), Continental shelf, exposed rocky shore, kelp forest, protected rocky shore

Habitat notes:

As adults deacon rockfish aggregate in schools over rocky reef and in kelp forests.


Relative abundance:

Common in Oregon and Washington

Species Description

General description:

The deacon rockfish is most easily differentiated from the blue rockfish by its possession of a solid color pattern (blotched in blue rockfish). Deacon rockfish also possesses a prominent symphyseal knob (i.e. swelling located at the tip of the lower jaw), which is either reduced or absent in blue rockfish, a flat ventrum (rounded in blue rockfish), and longer first and second anal-fin spines.

Distinctive features:

The deacon rockfish has a uniform, light blue-gray, speckled pattern on the trunk, which generally appears solid or nearly so. The blue rockfish has a steel-blue to greenish-blue body color with large, dark blotches overlain. Also, the lower jaw of the deacon rockfish juts beyond the upper, whereas it does not for blue rockfish. The deacon rockfish has an underbite, so to speak.


To 53 cm.

Natural History

General natural history:

Frable et al. (2015) separated the blue rockfish Sebastes mystinus (Jordan and Gilbert, 1881) into two species on the basis of molecular and morphological data. From 2004 to 2014, multiple researchers suggested there were two types of blue rockfish: a northern group with a solid color pattern of dense spots called blue-sided and a southern group with large dark blotches on a light background called blue-blotched. The northern group became the deacon rockfish in 2015 and the southern group was re-described as blue rockfish.

What was once called the blue-sided type of blue rockfish is now the deacon rockfish. The blue-blotched type of blue rockfish is simply a blue rockfish.


As juveniles there are numerous fish that eat them, but as they age and increase in size, the more likely predators include marine mammals and humans.


Plankton to bait fish.

Feeding behavior


Feeding behavior notes:

Often seen mouthing just about anything interesting, then spitting back out inedible items, which are often mouthed by a nearby conspecific.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary:

None in MBNMS since this species is found mostly in northern California and at higher latitudes.
Click on an image below to view a larger version in the SIMoN Photo Library. You will also be able to view important information on each photo such as photographer, date, caption and more.
Frable et al. 2015. A new species of Sebastes (Scorpaeniformes: Sebastidae) from the northeastern Pacific, with a redescription of the blue rockfish, S. mystinus (Jordan and Gilbert, 1881). Fishery Bulletin 113(4):355-377.