Black sea bass range in color from black to a dusky brown. Their fins are dark with dusky spots and their dorsal fin has while spots and bands. Black sea bass inhabit the waters of the U.S. Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico. Their preferred habitats include reefs, shipwrecks or oyster beds.
Black sea bass can grow as long as 23.5 inches and weigh up to eight pounds. They begin spawning off North Carolina in March and reach sexual maturity between the ages of two and three years. Black sea bass have the capability of changing their sex from female to male. Most females will change to males between two and five years. The majority of adult males are sexually reversed females.
Black sea bass north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina are managed cooperatively by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The stock of black sea bass south of Cape Hatteras down to Florida is managed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries does not consider black sea bass north of Cape Hatteras overfished. Black sea bass south of Cape Hatteras are considered overfished based on SAFMC assessments. There is a concerted effort in southeastern North Carolina to develop an aquaculture industry for black sea bass, primarily through the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
For information on black sea bass, go to http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/sea-bass-black.
For information on North Carolina black sea bass aquaculture, go to http://uncw.edu/aquaculture.
Contributed by Barry Nash.