A new addition has joined Birch Aquarium – a baby Giant Sea Bass. Our baby came from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, where it was born and raised. Thanks to their hard work with their partners at CSU Northridge, Aquarium of the Pacific, and the Southern California Marine Institute, we are able to display an endangered species that is rarely seen in its juvenile form in the wild. We are so proud of our colleagues for their accomplishment breeding and raising hundreds of baby endangered Giant Sea Bass in captivity. It is truly groundbreaking work.
If you’ve ever glanced at our two-story, 70,000 gallon Giant Kelp Forest, you have likely seen our largest animal there, our adult Giant Sea Bass. We have had our adult Giant Sea Bass for a few years now and our aquarists have learned so much about her based on their behavior. She currently weighs over 200 pounds and is over 5 feet long! These huge fish can reach 7 feet in length and weigh up to 500 pounds, so our girl still has some growing to do.
Giant Sea Bass are iconic fish of the Southern California Kelp forest. They can live up to 60 years and are one of the top predators in our local waters. The population of Giant Sea Bass — which is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)— is believed to be only about 500 individuals.
Unfortunately, in the 1920s and 30s, there were no restrictions in place to inhibit overfishing of the species. Commercial catch peaked in 1932 and their population declined dramatically in both California and Mexican waters. Before a law was passed to protect Giant Sea Bass, the fishery shrunk by 95%. Luckily, legislation was passed in 1988 and is still in force today that prohibits commercial or recreational fishing for Giant Sea Bass. If accidentally caught, they must be released. In 1990 use of gill nets near the California coast decreased the bycatch of these fish.
Since then, their numbers have been slowly but surely increasing and we are hopeful for change. We are honored to have these beautiful creatures on display at Birch Aquarium and hope that by sharing their story, it will inspire the next generation of ocean advocates.