July 27–Ocean divers and snorkelers are being asked to keep an eye out for giant sea bass and contribute photos of the behemoths to a new website to help researchers learn more about the relatively small population of the fish.
It’s estimated there are fewer than 500 breeding giant sea bass offshore of California and Baja California. The fish, which can exceed 500 pounds and 7 feet in length, are considered gentle and curious, pose no threat to humans and are rarely seen. They can live to be 75 years old.
Researchers from Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific and the University of California at Santa Barbara launched the site to expand their pool of data so they can better identify spawning grounds, calculate how far the fish travel and identify threats to the fish.
Because each fish sports a unique constellation of spots, individuals can be easily distinguished.
“By matching the unique spot patterns of individual giant sea bass in images submitted to the website, we can begin to answer critically important research questions,” said Milton Love, a research biologist at UCSB.
The program will enable both scientists and citizen contributors to track individual fish. Divers who upload photos can received notifications when that fish has been spotted by another diver.
The fish are typically found around kelp forests. The area offshore of Catalina Island provides popular breeding grounds for the creatures.
The website, SpottingGiantSeaBass.msi.ucsb.edu, was uploaded with photos of more than 100 giant sea bass for its debut on Thursday.
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