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April 21, 2018  |  Login

Black Sea Bass
Stereolepis gigas

What Are They Like?

Black sea bass are mostly known for their tremendous size. Adults can measure up to 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) and can weigh up to 560 pounds (255 kilograms). The body of the black sea bass is quite thick and stocky. A distinguishing feature of this fish is the strongly notched dorsal fin that runs along its back. Juvenile sea bass are usually bright orange with large black spots. As they get older, they gradually turn solid black or gray. An interesting characteristic of this fish is its remarkable ability to change color at a moment's notice. Adults can take on a bicolor appearance (dark top, light bottom), display white mottling, and shift color from jet-black to pale gray. These color changes are thought to be a form of communication.

Where Do They Live?

Black sea bass can be found in the Eastern Pacific off the coast of Southern California, from Humboldt Bay to the tip of Baja, Mexico. Juvenile sea bass prefer relatively shallow waters near kelp beds, while adults prefer to inhabit deeper waters with rocky bottoms.

Did You Know?
Black sea bass can live more than 70 years.

How Are Babies Made?

Black sea bass become sexually mature at the age of 7-10 years old. During the months of June to September, large numbers congregate to spawn. Females are able to produce 60 million or more eggs. These eggs will usually hatch within 24-36 hours, and the larvae drift around in search of food. The larvae will feed on plankton for a month, until they mature into juveniles.

What Do They Eat?

The black sea bass diet is varied and consists of skates, stingrays, crustaceans, flatfish, small sharks, octopuses and squid.


What Do They Do?

The bulky body of the black sea bass isn't well designed for fast, sustained swimming, so they usually cruise slowly along the ocean floor in search of food. Black sea bass have very large mouths and feed by quickly opening them and sucking in organisms on the ocean floor. Black sea bass are also known to ambush fish that are in mid-water by patiently waiting for them to swim past, and then suddenly sucking the fish into their mouths.

How Concerned Should We Be?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which keeps a "Red List" of species in danger worldwide, lists the black sea bass as "critically endangered."  The biggest threat is overfishing, which has severely depleted the population over the past century. The slow growth rate and late age of sexual maturity for the black sea bass have made recovery very difficult. Another threat facing black sea bass is water pollution. Since they spend the majority of their time near the ocean floor, they are susceptible to toxic compounds such as PCB and DDE that have settled into the sediment. Black sea bass can also become entangled in fishing lines and nets set out by commercial fishermen.

What's Being Done?

Since 1990, the banning of gill nets in California has dramatically reduced black sea bass mortalities. Additional conservation actions need to be taken to adequately protect this species from extinction.


Giant Black Sea Bass

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