Giant sea bass is "like a squashed Volkswagen" -- Off-Ramp for July 26, 2014

Fish census starts Aug. 1. Has the giant sea bass made a comeback?

Linda Blanchard

An adult giant sea bass, which weigh at least 580 pounds. UCSB marine biologist Milton Love says some of his colleagues report seeing one off Catalina up to 9 feet long.

Tracy Clark

The cute little fish is actually a juvenile giant sea bass, which will, if it isn't eaten, grow many times bigger ... possibly as big as 9 feet long.

J. Green/Wikipedia

Drawings of the giant sea bass from the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1897.


Off-Ramp host John Rabe talks with Off-Ramp commentator and UCSB marine biologist Milton Love about the Giant Sea Bass Census, the first count of the highly endangered fish, and about how fish get their names in the first place.

The giant sea bass is a huge fish, and before it was fished almost to extinction, UC Santa Barbara marine biologist Milton Love says they probably dominated the kelp beds off Southern California. He says the giant sea bass "gets to about 7 feet long, at least 580 pounds. I have some friends who are working on Catalina right now who insist that they saw one that was bigger than 7 feet long, maybe even 9 feet long, which would be an 800-pound fish."

But giant sea bass, which are not related to the Chilean sea bass, have two big flaws: They're easy to catch, and they're delicious.

RELATED: Milton Love tells Off-Ramp about his magnum opus, "Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast"

"Commercial fisherman hit them really hard in the 20s and 30s and 40s, and recreational anglers started hitting them hard, too," Love says. "And by about the 1970s, there was a handful of fish left, and the Fish and Game Department imposed draconian laws" banning almost all taking of giant sea bass.

(L-R: UCSB's Doug McCauley and Milton Love. Image: Sonia Fernandez)

Now, Love says they might be making a comeback, so he and fellow UCSB researcher Douglas McCauley are organizing the first Giant Sea Bass Census, which runs Aug. 1 to 7. Essentially, if you're in the water that week, they're asking you to report back to them via their Facebook page. Report if you see any giant sea bass (and if so, how many), and report if you don't see any, because that's important, too.

Ecstatic diver meets 2 giant sea bass on first Channel Islands dive

"The question is," Love says, "how much are they coming back? Are there a hundred off the coast here? Are there a thousand? Are there 3,000? That makes a big difference because already, there are folks who are saying, 'The sea bass are back; we should be allowed to catch them.' There are people who are pushing for a some kind of quota. That may be fine (or) it may be a stupid idea, but you gotta have some idea of how many fish there are before you make that decision."

Love and I talked at length about the sea bass census, and then chatted about how fish get their names. Love himself named a fish parasite after a girlfriend long ago. Listen to our interview to find out more.


blog comments powered by Disqus