As the name implies flatfish have a flat body and have both eyes on one side of their head (the side that does not face the bottom). Flatfish are ‘demersal’ fish, which means they feed on or near the bottom of the ocean. A high-quality, sustainable white fish, Alaskan flatfish populations are at healthy levels and as of 2010 were certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as a sustainable fishery. The most common species are yellowfin sole, northern rock sole, flathead sole and Alaska plaice. Catcher processors utilize onboard equipment to catch, process and freeze fish within several hours of harvest.
The Alaskan flatfish fishery is divided into two separate management areas; the Bering Sea/Aleutians Islands (BSAI) and the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). Flatfish trawl gear has evolved a great deal in the past 20 years. Today the gear is lighter and leaves less of an environmental imprint on the ocean floor by raising the trawl sweep. The gear incorporates designs that target wanted species while reducing bycatch. This new modified type of gear was required on all Bering Sea fishing vessels starting in 2011.