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Alaska rockfish believed to have been 200 years old doesn’t look a day over 64

  • RecordROck.jpg

    June 21: Sport fisherman Henry Liebman, from Seattle, holds his shortraker rockfish at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office.

  • rockfish

    The shortraker rockfish (Sebastes borealis) is found in deep waters of the North Pacific. (NOAA)

The rockfish caught recently in the vicinity of Juneau, Alaska, which had state officials abuzz that it was the oldest on record turned out to be much younger than previously believed.

The Alaska Fish and Game Mark, Age and Tag Laboratory determined that the 40-pound, 3-foot long rockfish caught by an angler from Seattle was not 200 years old, but rather 64 years old, or below retirement age.

"The fish was so big, so there was potential for it to also be an old fish," Troy Tydingco, the Sitka area manager with the state Department of Fish and Game, told The Alaska Dispatch. "I think everybody was surprised it was so young."

Henry Liebman, the fisherman who caught the fish, told the paper that he was fishing in 900 feet of water at the time and was about 10 miles off the coast of Sitka. Rockfish, the paper said, have been known to live as far down as 4,000 feet.

The fish was certified and a sample was sent to the lab in Juneau where the fish’s age was officially determined.  Tydingco called 64 a “run of the mill” age for a rockfish

Liebman, at the time, received criticism from the public for keeping the fish that was believed to be so old. His defenders, however, said the fish would have likely died anyway considering the depths it was caught.

The record age for a rockfish was 205 years old.  If this fish was indeed born 200 year ago, it would have been born around the same time the U.S. entered the War of 1812, James Madison was president and the German composer Richard Wagner was born.

Experts verify the fish’s age by measuring otoliths, which the Dispatch says grow with the fish and “can indicate age much like the rings on a tree.” The fish’s size was credited to a good environment and genetics.

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