The Science

Over 40 species of symbiotic parasites live on the gills and within the guts of yellowtail [2]

The Fishery

No California Yellowtail can be taken commercially if it is less than 28 inches (71 cm) long [11]

The Seafood

Known as Hamachi in sushi, this fish has a buttery texture due to its naturally high oil content [4]

The Science

John Turnbull/CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Taxonomic description

  • Blue body, yellow tail, and silver sides with a bronzy stripe along the lateral line [2]
  • Grows to 2.5 m in length and weighs up to 36.3 kg, with the largest weighing in at 41.3 kg (91.1 lbs) [2]


  • Along the eastern Pacific from southern Washington to Mazatlán, Mexico (for California Yellowtail) [1]

Life history

  • Average lifespan 5-6 years with a max of 12 years [2]
  • Females can spawn at 2-3 years old and release up to 150 eggs during spawning, but about 100 eggs are fertilized at a time. Yellowtail eggs are externally fertilized, with the females releasing eggs into the water column, and the males spraying sperm over the eggs [2]
  • Spawning occurs during the summer, from June to October [10]. Younger females spawn once during spawning season, while older ones can spawn multiple times [2]


  • Lives near rocky reefs, kelp beds, and offshore islands [2]
  • Eggs and larvae are eaten by mollusks, echinoderms, crabs, and fish [2]
  • Common predators on adults are great white sharks, California sea lions, and humans; the fish’s blue and silvery color is an adaptation to help camouflage from predators [2]
  • Yellowtail themselves like to eat round herring, sardines, squids, anchovies, and California flying fish [2]

The Fishery

Jason Houston, Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

Seasonal availability

  • Generally caught June to February, drift gillnet open April 15-February 1, other gear types open year round [5]

Managing authority

  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife, though there is no specific management plan [8]

Gear type

  • Drift gillnet incidental catch, also targeted with hook and line. If targeting yellowtail with drift gillnets, mesh size must be ≥3.5 inches [8]

Status of the fishery

  • Is a largely sought after sportfish, but no decline in population sizes has been detected [9]
  • Commercial catch declined when purse seining (1973), and later, gillnets (1994) were banned in California waters (CDFG 2001) [1]
  • There is currently no stock assessment or fishery management plan in place for California yellowtail [1]
  • Currently no conservation acts [1]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Yellowtail are secondary and tertiary consumers in their ecosystems, so their presence helps create the population structure for their prey [2]
  • They have over 50 species of symbiotic parasites on their gills and inside their guts [2, Hutson 2007 thesis] 

The Seafood

Chloe Meyers,

Edible portions

  • Meat (muscle), head and roe are edible, remaining parts may be used in broth or soups [4]

Description of meat

  • Light red to pink in color, and buttery due to high oil content [4]

Culinary uses

  • Commonly used raw in sushi as sashimi or smoked [4]
  • Sold fresh and frozen, and whole, in fillets or steaks [4]

Nutritional information 

  • 66% of the calories are from protein, while the rest 34% are from fat [5,12]

Toxicity report

  • Yellowtail naturally have high amounts of histidine, which is a precursor to histamine; high levels of histamine result in an allergy. Spoiled fish have higher chances of leading to histamine toxicity [7]

Seasonal availability

  • Available year round [1]


[1] James, K. 2014. California yellowtail, White seabass. Web. Accessed: 30 May 2017

[2] Sandoval, J. 2017. Seriola lalandi. Web. Accessed: 30 May 2017

[3] Fishing Booker, 2017. Yellowtail Amberjack Fishing in San Diego California. Web. Accessed: 30 May 2017

[4]Seafood Source. 2014. Yellowtail. Web. Accessed: 29 May 2017

[5] Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, 2017. Web. Accessed: 30 May 2017

[6] Eat This Much, 2017. Yellowtail. 2017. Web.,3385. Accessed: 30 May 2017

[7] American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, 2017. Histamine Toxicity. Web. Accessed: 30 May 2017

[8] NOAA Fisheries, 2017. CA Yellowtail/Barracuda/White Seabass Drift Gillnet Fishery. Web. Accessed: 30 May 2017.

[9] IUCN Red List, 2017. Seriola lalandi. Web. Accessed: 30 May 2017.

[10] CA Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2013. California Marine Sportfish Identification. Web. Accessed: 30 May 2017.

[11] Crooke, S. 2001. Status of the Fisheries Report, Yellowtail. CA Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marine Region, CA, USA. 

[12] Yellowtail. Web. Accessed: 21 September 2017.