Scientific Name – Stereolepis gigas
Habitat – Kelp forests and deep, rocky reefs
Conservation Status – listed internationally as critically endangered and are protected in California
Geographic location – Northwest Pacific Ocean from Humboldt, California, to the Gulf of California
Diet – crustaceans, rays, skates, squid, bony fish species (anchovies, sheephead, sand dabs, flounder, croaker), and sometimes even kelp
The Giant Sea Bass definitely lives up to its name. Capable of growing to lengths of over 7 feet and weights of 800 pounds, these creatures are surprisingly docile. They have been know to swim near scuba divers to check them out.
Adults are typically a black or dark brown color and have dark spots and a lighter belly area. Their color pattern has been known to change though—to help them camouflage themselves as they hunt for food and to keep themselves from being hunted. Fortunately for the Giant Sea Bass, few sea animals are large enough to prey on them. Their main predators are Great White Sharks and humans.
Several decades ago, the Giant Sea Bass was flourishing in Southern California. “However, their slow growth and reproduction, coupled with a tendency to aggregate in large groups, made giant black sea bass susceptible to overfishing, which caused these fish to nearly disappear by the 1970s.” In the 80s, recreational and commercial California fisheries were closed, which has helped the Giant Sea Bass population to increase significantly.
It takes Giant Sea Bass a long time to reproduce, compared to other marine life, because they don’t reach sexual maturity until they are 10-13 years old. Young Giant Sea Bass fish are sometimes mistaken for a different fish, because they look so different from their parents. They have a red/orange body, with white and dark spots on their sides. The older they get, the darker they become.
The Giant Sea Bass is a truly remarkable, yet endangered, creature. So if you ever see one, be sure to snap a picture and let them go free!
Monterey Bay Aquarium: youtube and tumbler
Written by: Kari Shirley, intern