Giant (Black) Sea Bass
Kelp forests and deep, rocky reefs.
There is no formal conservation status, but fishing is prohibited in California.
This gentle giant is the largest and most magnificent species of fish in the kelp forest. They are capable of growing to lengths of over 7 feet and weighing 800 pounds. Adults are dark brown to black with large dark spots and a light belly. It is believed that they have the ability to alter their spot pattern at will. As carnivores, they eat many things including Pacific mackerel, shrimp, small sharks, crabs, lobster, anchovies, and squid.
Prior to the 1950’s, this species of bony fish was very common to the near shore waters of 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 1982 both the recreational and commercial California fisheries were closed and they have slowly recovered from near zero in recent years. However, commercial fishers are allowed to keep a bycatch of one fish per trip, an unfortunately common occurrence in the widespread gillnet fisheries off the Southern California coast. Lucky divers may spot them within the Channel Islands National Park waters, especially during the summer months.