The Return of the Black Sea Bass: Good News and Bad - September 1999It looks like the moratorium on the taking or possession of black sea bass is having its desired effect in that divers at all the Channel Islands are reporting frequent sightings of these once nearly extinct critters. In one case, a pair of divers off Anacapa nearly went berserk trying to take photos of a school of seven "smaller" fish weighing between an estimated 50 to 250 pounds! The news is good along the coast, as well as with beach divers in Malibu, Santa Monica, Palos Verdes and Laguna Beach, enjoying the awesome experience of seeing these magnificent creatures. So what could be the bad news about the miraculous return of the black sea bass? Well, apparently some people are unwilling to appreciate these gentle creatures visually. Divers off Anacapa Island have found evidence in the form of two severed heads from cleaned blacks that someone has been taking these fish home for dinner - not as guests, but as the main course! After locating the heads, and recovering one for evidence, divers reported their disheartening find to local Park Rangers and the California Department of Fish and Game. Anyone witnessing the taking of black sea bass should notify either Park rangers by calling on VHF marine radio channel 16, or the California Department of Fish and Game's "We Tip" number (888-DFG-CALTIP). For those who have not had the pleasure of seeing one of these fish "at home" it is something to look forward to. Despite the appellation "black" sea bass, they are, when seen underwater, usually a very light silvery-purple color with large dark polka-dots scattered over their chunky bodies. Though this color and pattern is most pronounced on the "puppies," smaller fish up to a couple hundred pounds, even the larger ones can be spotted sporting the same design. The only time a black sea bass actually looks black, is when they are dead. These are wonderful creatures and their return to our local waters after decades of decline is a blessing, and adds yet another benefit to the Southern California diving experience. Yet if uncaring scofflaws are allowed to prey on black sea bass, we may yet again face the loss of these magnificent denizens of the kelp beds.
Black Sea Bass Regularly Seen At Italian Gardens, Catalina - October 1999As many as 10 giant black sea bass are now seen regularly at the Italian Gardens dive site according to Diana Madaras of Catalina Scuba Luv. It is not unusual to see four to six of the large protected fish. Once rare due to over fishing, the big creatures have made a dramatic comeback in recent years. They are unafraid of divers and often approach within just a few feet. They can range in size from three feet long to over six feet long weighing several hundreds of pounds. They are fully protected by law and cannot be hunted or fished in any way. Italian Gardens site is located on the frontside of Catalina just west of Long Point.
Black Sea Bass Carcasses Discovered - November 1999Two giant black sea bass carcasses have been discovered at Long Point on Catalina Island. The bodies had been filleted and dumped. Black sea bass are protected. They cannot be taken with spear or hook and line. Fish taken with hook and line must be released immediately. Several black sea bass have been making regular appearances at Long Point in the last few months. The magnificent animal, once near extinction, can reach upwards of 500 pounds and several feet in length. They generally do not fear divers and can be easily approached. Those witnessing illegal take of black sea bass are encouraged to call California Fish and Game at 888-DFG-CALTIP (toll free).