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Giant Sea Bass

Scientific Name: Stereolepis gigas

Distribution: Northern California (Humboldt Bay) to southern Mexico (Oaxaca.

Habitat: Giant sea bass are known to occupy areas of 18-150 ft (5-46 m) deep. Giant sea bass inhabit rocky reefs, kelp forests, and have been spotted over sand adjacent to these habitats.

Behavior: In addition to being able to change colors and patterns rapidly, giant sea bass have also been observed to make loud noises (called a boom). Giants migrate to nearshore waters during the spring and migrate offshore during the fall and have been found to migrate several miles. Giant sea bass also form spawning aggregations in the summer. Giants are cleaned by numerous fish species such as kelpfish, bluebanded gobies, small kelp bass, and juvenile California sheephead and eat fishes, squids, crabs, and spiny lobsters.

Why it is important: Giant sea bass used to be a large commercial and recreational fishery until they were overfished to near extinction. This species is particularly susceptible to overfishing due to maturing at an older age and their slow growth rate. Giant sea bass were later protected (in 1981 and amended in 1988) in an attempt to recover the species. Conservation efforts appear to be beneficial and recent studies suggest that giants may be returning to southern California waters.

The Giant Sea Bass Collective, a collaboration between CSUN and UCSB, was started as a method to conduct a census of the giant sea bass population and calls upon divers to report sightings of giants (find out more at facebook.com/giantseabass).

Sources: FishBase, CDFW 2001 (Status Report), Love 2011, House et al. 2016

Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Stereolepis gigas

Conservation Status (IUCN): Critically Endangered

Lifespan: 72-76 years

Age at Maturity: 7-15 years old

Maximum Weight: 800 lbs (363.6 kg)

Speed: Unknown

Maximum Length: 8 ft (2.4 m)

Habitat: Temperate & subtropical regions

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