FLATHEAD SOLE (Hippoglossoides elassodon) Harvested throughout the year, flathead sole are found on the Pacific Coast of North America from Monterey Bay in Central California northward into the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council manages the Flathead Sole Fisheries in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off Alaska. In the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands area (BSAI) the fishery is regulated under the BSAI Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP). During the 1960’s Japanese and Soviet vessels began fishing flathead in the BSAI. By 1986, foreign fishing was prohibited in the Gulf of Alaska, but joint fishing accounted for a majority of the catch until the end of 1990, when all commercial fishing was limited to domestic ventures. In addition, in 1990 the Gulf of Alaska Flatfish complex divided into categories, which included flathead sole with separate fishery targets and annual limits set for each category.
Four years later, a separate allowable catch was assigned to flathead in the BSAI area. Prior to 2008 substantial amounts (upwards of 30%) of flathead sole were discarded overboard in various Eastern Bering Sea target fisheries. In comparison, only 10% of flathead sole caught in 2008 were discarded due to new regulations requiring lower discard rates. Annual catches of flathead sole in recent years have been well below the recommended catch. Currently, the species is not over-fished.