Threats to The Giant Sea Bass

Threats to The Giant Sea Bass
As the giant sea bass population slowly increases, so do their encounters with man. Though it is illegal kill a giant sea bass, two fish were found speared in the summer of 2001, one at Catalina Island, and the one in this photo at Anacapa Island.

Threats From Fishing: California State Fish and Game regulations have made it illegal for sport fishermen to keep a giant sea bass, and commercial fishermen are only allowed giant sea bass as incidental catch. However, in summer when the fish are aggregating to spawn, many are caught

and released. Giant sea bass have a swim bladder that expands with air if the fish is hauled from the depths up to the surface. In many cases the fish will be so full of air that they cannot get back underwater. Fishermen have developed a habit of puncturing the swim bladder to deflate the fish so it can return to the sea floor. There is some anecdotal evidence from fish caught and held in captivity, that the giant sea bass are susceptible to developing infections after swim bladders have been punctured, and later die from this ailment. Giant sea bass are also known to put up a strong fight and can receive injuries to the mouth and body from the hook and line. A number of the giant sea bass seen at Anacapa and Catalina Islands, trail remnants of fishing gear. Though giant sea bass are usually hooked by accident while fishing for other species, the summer spawning grounds and adjacent areas are where the fish are likely to be caught. Voluntary reduction of fishing effort at these known areas during the spawning season could greatly benefit the giant sea bass.

Threats From Divers: Though the hook and line fishermen catch giant sea bass by accident, in two documented cases of spear fishing, the giant sea bass was the chosen target. It will never be known if these spear fishermen were poaching these animals, or if they were uneducated as to the species and the law that protects them. There have been several instances where divers have reported coming across cleaned remains of giant sea bass at the Channel Islands. Unfortunately, there is no requirement for underwater hunters to receive education on species identification or the California Fish and Game Laws before purchasing a spear gun. However, most sport divers take this responsibility upon themselves, and these sad cases of speared giant sea bass are the exception rather than the rule. Environmental education prior to any form of hunting and collecting is a good idea, and might reduce the waste of many magnificent creatures.

Environmental Threats: In "California's Marine Living Resources: A Status Report" 2001, it states that giant sea bass caught in California waters had high levels of toxins in their tissues associated with DDT and PCBs. Giant sea bass feed on many bottom dwelling organisms that may have accumulated these toxins through the ocean food chain. Though giant sea bass are currently found at sites that have no kelp, these same locations historically had kelp forest. The long-term effect of declining kelp habitat, and the giant sea bass, as well as many other species often associated with the kelp forest remains unknown.

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